12 Dec The cook
12 December 2013
“One of the most important people on board, apart from the captain, is of course the cook. Our morale, during all those weeks at sea, to a large degree depended on the quality (and quantity) of the meals. Our cook is Job. Who is Job, and how did he achieve this?
Job started out as a cook preparing and selling pancakes in an old fire-brigade truck, at music festivals in England. That’s why he serves the perfect pancakes at breakfast on Sunday mornings. Later on, he extended his repertoire with sandwiches. That was the start of a catering business for thirty to a hundred people. So 29 crew members are thus peanuts. Through friends, he met the people of ‘Oosterschelde’ and after initially assisting the ship’s cook, Wouter, he became the ship’s cook on four voyages. It is also notable that he has worked in the kitchen of the famous establishment ‘Proust’ at the Noordermarkt in Amsterdam. Impressive!
Question: how is it to cook for 29 people during two months without the possibility to reprovision in-between? Answer: It is exciting and challenging. Three weeks before our departure from Auckland, Job made a shopping list for a local provider. For example: potatoes. 20 planned menus contained this typical Dutch product. Those skilled in cooking know from experience that 170 kilos are needed. And a similar formula applies for spaghetti, onions, everything. On top of that, meat, condiments, vegetables etc. and lots of canned food stuffs. Frozen products are parceled in quantities for every meal. Reinvention of new meals from left-overs becomes an art in itself. For example left-over rice is used in breakfast porridge.
Job prepared 42 recipes in all. When in some cases he ran out of ingredients, especially at the end of the voyage, he had to improvise with what he still had in stock.
The ship’s store rooms are impressive. Under her floors there is a lot of spare room for all kinds of uses. Apart from room for water, diesel, and motors, the bilges have great capacity for storing foods and drinks. In those holds there are also 6 coolers and freezers. Furthermore, the ship’s boat, on deck, is also used for this purpose (with ambient temperature averaging 4 degrees Celsius!). At the voyage’s end, the last fruit had just expired. Well planned!
On this trip around the Cape we have had our share of bad weather. The ship rolled and pitched severely. Question: what does that mean for cooking? On non-gimballed stoves? Answer: That is not only a gastronomic, but also a mental and physical challenge. Never loose your concentration. Never place something without considering the consequences. Before you know it the knives are flying around the kitchen.
We have never seen Job swearing during cooking, but there have been those occasions when a plate had been prepared for the oven and then … the door of the galley was closed for some introspection. Besides the meals, bread was baked twice a day and yeast was busy changing milk into yoghurt.
Those 29 people ate impressive quantities of food. The sea air, the cold and the continuous gymnastics to keep one’s balance, burn a lot of calories. This has been accounted for in Job’s quantity formulae. He sometimes looks at the served quantities and thinks: “This does not fit; where does this person hold this amount?”. And for the special treats on the menu, he polices in a friendly but effective way, so that each one doesn’t take more than their share: “Let’s start with one”.”