CURRENT LOCATION: Anchored near Moss Cays, about midway between George Town on Great Exuma Island and Stocking Island, Exumas, Bahamas
23 30.546' N, 075 45.529' W (CLICK HERE
for Google Maps)
Sheryl and I are quite thrilled to be taking such a large group of Readers on this journey with us via this fantastic virtual medium known as a blog. We routinely get e-mails from family, friends, and even strangers, commenting upon various aspects of our trip. Readers have contacted us from many areas of the country, including Indiana, North Carolina, Michigan, Illinois, Connecticut, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas, Atlanta, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Jersey, Montana, Rhode Island, Alaska, Hawaii, and I am sure a few other locations which I may have inadvertently omitted. For some, reading our blog is a way of keeping in touch and knowing that we are safe. For others, it is an opportunity to consider their own eventual transition to the cruising lifestyle.
We recently received an e-mail from friends of ours in Raleigh, NC (Ian & Cam), who would probably place themselves in both of the categories above. They asked a question of a rather practical nature, and I thought it might be a good idea to respond to them through the blog, since others of you may also be interested. Ian & Cam were curious to know about the logistics of dining sans refrigeration.
Having lived without refrigeration for just a little over two months now, we cannot yet consider ourselves experts on all matters of food preservation and preparation under these conditions, but we have found what works well for us. Let's take things one meal at a time...
Each and every day here aboard Prudence
starts with a kettle of water on the stove. Prior to cruising, Sheryl and I would both enjoy a pot of coffee brewed from fresh ground beans originating in some quality coffee-producing country, such as Costa Rica. However, for practical purposes here aboard the boat, we have switched to instant coffee (preferably Nescafe), and find it to be quite tasty. Pouring the hot water into a thermos allows us to enjoy as many or as few cups as we prefer, throughout the morning hours.
We usually select between three main options for morning sustenance: cereal, eggs & toast, or oatmeal.
Cereal is a great, vitamin-packed way to start the day. Unfortunately, it takes up a lot of storage space, so we only have a limited amount on board at any given time. In addition, cereal can be quite expensive (around $6 for a small box here in the Bahamas), so we purchase it only when we can find a better deal than that. Milk is no problem, since UHT milk (which has undergone Ultra High Temperature pasteurization) seems to be available most everywhere down here. We open a quart of UHT milk and, after we pour it on cereal and add it to our coffee, there is usually one glass for me to finish so that it does not go to waste. It takes a while to get used to drinking a glass of room temp milk, but it is not that bad. As with the cereal, cost and storage space are the only logistical restrictions on making milk a part of this breakfast option.
So far, we have found eggs refrigerated in all the stores (both in the US and the Bahamas). Since they have been refrigerated, we have purchased them in only small amounts and have eaten them within two days. In other countries, it is not uncommon to find eggs in stores which are not refrigerated. If we can locate such a source further down island, we intend to try purchasing a larger quantity and seeing how well they keep over time. Tricks we have read about for keeping them fresh include turning them regularly and coating the eggs in vaseoline. Although we may employ the former, I am not too sure about the latter. As for the toast, bread seems to disappear from stores soon after the weekly supply truck arrives on the island, so we have been buying loaves when possible, but just as frequently we bake our own. In order to turn bread to toast, we initially tried one of those camp-toasters, where a wire-rig holds the bread above the flame on the stove. Fortunately, we got one for about $2. Unfortunately, it rusted in about 2 weeks. Since then, we have been quite happy preparing our toast on a frying pan (right after removing the eggs). Butter for the toast comes in the form of tinned butter from New Zealand. It seems to keep well at room temp for at least a few weeks.
Oatmeal is the staple standby for breakfast. When eggs or cereal are not available, we take the hot water from the thermos and make up a bowl of quick oats. When we left the States, we had provisioned with a number of the flavored oatmeal packets, in addition to the round box of Quaker quick oats. One of these packets, combined with an equal amount of quick oats gave us a flavorful breakfast in relatively short order. Since supplies of those flavored packs have all been used, we have to take a few extra moments each morning to add our own flavoring to the quick oats. A dash of salt, a scoop of brown sugar, and a little fresh ground cinnamon and nutmeg do nicely. Occasionally, if we feel the need for a little fruit, we will toss in a handful of raisins. In addition, we have recently been adding powdered milk to our oatmeal. This helps tide us over on vitamin D between our opportunities to open a carton of UHT milk.
For me, lunch can generally be handled with one major staple: Peanut Butter. In fact, I believe that PB&J is as close as one can come to the perfect traveling food. When we plan to be away from the boat over lunchtime (on land or sea-based explorations), we usually pack PB&J sandwiches. We have found that sugar-free jelly keeps fine when stored unrefrigerated. Other sandwich types which can help us get our much needed protein are cheese and tuna fish.
Cheese is another item which we purchase and consume within two days. We did find some small wheels of Gouda cheese (coated in red wax) back in Florida. Those lasted well for some time, but we have not found them since. As for tuna, we have found canned tuna cheap and we stocked up on little restaurant single-serving mustard and mayonnaise packs before we left the US (Note: Panera Bread Company is a great place to stop for lunch and stuff your pockets full of reduced fat mayonnaise and spicy brown mustard). I, alone, enjoy the tuna-salad sandwiches because my lovely vegetarian wife eschews tuna, mayo, and mustard.
The alternative to sandwiches is a hot meal for lunch. Macaroni & cheese or a bowl of split pea soup are often offered aboard Prudence
. (Note: split pea soup is prepared in our pressure cooker, the value of which is underscored below)
The single greatest addition to our cooking arsenal for cruising has been our pressure cooker. We obtained our 2.6-liter pressure cooker from Germany (thanks to the space in the suitcase of our good friend, Stefan), and it is the perfect size for creating a meal for two. In fact, when it comes to cooking dinners that was the biggest learning point for us (relative to living without a refrigerator or microwave oven)...LEAVE NO LEFTOVERS. Prior to cruising, we often made meals to last a week. Now, we make it and we eat it.
When we spent weekends aboard the boat, we came to love the instant rice packets (Success brand sells a very nice variety of brown rice flavored packets). On a Friday night, after driving to the boat and unloading our gear, we liked the fact that they heat up quickly and easily. And when one added a can of black beans (and packaged tuna or chicken steak for me...baby spinach for Sheryl), it was a complete meal. We still carry a few of those packets in our pantry; however, the sodium content of pre-packaged rice and canned beans is far too high for regular consumption. This is where the pressure cooker really shines. Beans and rice are one of our favorite dinner-time staples, and they cook quickly and efficiently in the pressure cooker. We left the States with dried black beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas. Here in the Bahamas we have added pigeon peas and dried green peas. Brown rice continues to be our preference and seems to be widely available.
Thanks to our friend, Larry, we consider Japanese curry to be another dinner staple here aboard Prudence
. Available in most groceries (look for S&B brand Golden Curry sauce mix), these cubes dissolve in hot water to make a rich curry sauce which is somewhat sweeter than an Indian curry. It goes great over rice with boiled sweet potatoes. Also, while on the Asian-themed cuisine, we stocked up on Mamma Sita's brand Caldereta spicy sauce mix before departing Stuart, FL. We enjoy this Philippinean stew (sans the beef) every time we find fresh potatoes and carrots in stores. Unfortunately, the carrots here have usually been refrigerated in the store, so we must eat them within a day or two or they turn rubbery and spoil quickly thereafter. Canned green beans or peas can be added to the stew, as well.
Another alternative to rice & beans is pasta. We keep dried pasta on hand and make our own sauce with garlic & onions and canned tomato sauce (we stocked up on lots of cheap tomato sauce which we found on sale at Big Lots before leaving the States). Speaking of garlic and onions, they are a part of just about every
dinner here on Prudence
. They hang in the hammock above the radar and keep quite well there. And, whether it is beans and rice, curry, asian stew, or pasta sauce, dinnertime is generally announced by the aroma of sautéed garlic and onions wafting from our galley.
Crackers are the mainstay of our between-meal snacking. In fact, sometimes these snacks actually substitute for our meals. Co-starring with crackers for snacktime are a variety of supporting players: peanut butter, hummus, cheese, or salsa. On passages, Sheryl always keeps a package of saltines handy and munches on them sans any of the co-stars listed above. Also handy when under way or out exploring are Cliff bars. Because I often simply forget to eat when I am otherwise occupied, Sheryl is always ready with a Cliff bar and a smile (encouraging me to keep my strength up).
So, there you have it, a fairly comprehensive rundown of what it takes to keep the crew of Prudence
nourished. Of course, things are subject to continuous change as we run out of items we purchased in the US and different things become available in other countries, 'down island.'
On a somewhat related note, although no electrical power is required for food storage or prep (and our icebox has become a room-temperature storage facility), we do use the stove quite a bit. Burners are lit at least every morning and evening, and the oven is employed to bake bread at least once or twice a week. We carry two ten-pound LP tanks and we generally get 6-8 weeks out of each tank. We are, just now, getting our first 'foreign' fill of one of the empty tanks, and it looks like it will cost us just under $20. When you break it down to a monthly expense, it is not a bad 'utility' bill (our only one) even for those of us who are currently unemployed.
Until next time, dear Reader, bon appétit!