Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It Tastes Like Boat

“I can't eat this oatmeal,” Aeron informs the table with a grimace one clear, autumnal morning.

I haven't finished my first cup of coffee. “Eat your breakfast.”

“I can't!” she avers firmly.

It's cold. We're running late. “You can.”

“Can't!” declares Aeron.

It's not wise to engage in verbal fisticuffs with a technical writer. Inevitably, we'll trump you.“MUST.”

“It tastes like boat!” she wails.

Mera Samples Carefully
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
However, even a technical writer succumbs in the face of hard, cold facts. The instant oatmeal does taste like boat, which means it tastes roughly the same as sweetened fuel rags dipped in day old dishwater and used to wipe mold off the back of a refrigerator.

Oatmeal, crackers, cereal, flour, cookies... all serve the combined function of deodorizer and dehumidifier on our boat. They suck the manky boat smell and humid exhalations of five human beings and bind them in a carbohydrate matrix that would do proud an environmental engineer working on reducing total global carbon load. Forget Dry-Z-Air, Stickups and aromatherapy candles. All it takes to get rid of the smell on the boat is to buy a package of Mother's Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Of course, our food sacrifices its most important property – edibility – on the altar of rendering the boat more livable. If your crackers taste like boat, it seriously detracts from the wine and cheese experience. And instant oatmeal is just nasty anyway. I shouldn't buy the stuff. I wouldn't buy the stuff if the kids didn't insist and my mother hadn't spent most of my younger years imprinting me on Quaker Instant Oatmeal with Apples and Cinnamon. But Quaker Instant Oatmeal with Maple, Brown Sugar, and Diesel is simply gawdawful. I broke down and whisked us all off to Starbucks.

Unfortunately, there is no Starbucks in the middle of the Pacific. Or maybe there is. What do you bet there is a Starbuck's on Easter Island? But I digress. Living on a boat requires some ingenuity to seal your fresh dry goods away from the odoriferous bouquet that is your home. I think you need to divide your hermetically sealed solutions into three broad categories: Short Term, Long Term, and Very Long Term.

Short Term – Start with the basic question of how long is the short term? I define short term as the duration it takes to turn a box of Ritz Crackers from crispy goodness to soggy sea gull food. So let's say 15 minutes. In the short term, your solutions need to meet the following criteria: cheap, capable of taking an entire package of Oreo's, and easily stowable in accessible lockers. It must be cheap because you need a bazillion of these things for every dry good you bring on to the boat: rice, pasta, flour, cereal, crackers, sugar, spices. If it doesn't hold the entire package of cookies, you will eat what you don't stow – right there on the dock in front of God and everybody. Finally, if you can't get your hands on it without rearranging the deck chairs, you won't eat it in the short term. Actually, you will probably forget you even bought it.

For the short term, our boat uses Ikea plastic sealable boxes. We would use Tupperware or Rubbermaid, but those companies have decided to price their products somewhere north of Caphelon but not quite as high as Waterford crystal. Ikea prides itself on producing goods in every conceivable size and shape which works well for the storage issue. The seal isn't perfect, but it's good enough to last a week or so, and we find the Swedish look goes well with our curvy French boat.

Long Term
– In the long term, we're all dead. Unfortunately, most of our human byproducts such as plastic bags, toxic waste sites, and Twinkies are not. On the boat, I stuff into long term storage under the salon cushions things that either: (1) I can't find them easily in the grocery stores near the shoreline (e.g. wasabi powder, sea salt, and buckwheat flower); or (2) I need to buy in large, bulky quantities to make myself feel like a Real Woman. Frankly, all our long term storage needs are a direct result of an impulse buy at Costco: a metric butt load of graham crackers, 20 pounds of unbleached wheat flour, or a year’s supply of Frosted Mini-Wheats. I find it ironic that while these products often ship in plastic bags, the bags are permeable to boat stench.

For these items, I bought a FoodSaver vacuum sealer. There's something weird about the FoodSaver plastic with the bumps which enables the vacuum process to work. The cost renders it roughly the equivalent of applying gold leaf to your food. However, we've discovered that you can buy 4mm painting tarp at Home Depot, cut it into the appropriate sizes and shapes, and then just use a 1” x 4” strip of the FoodSaver bumpy stuff at the opening to seal the package. That small strip renders the whole vacuum process possible.

The FoodSaver is also a pretty good way to seal spare parts against the marine environment, compress yarn into microscopic flat packages, and package extra meat and fish for longer freshness in the refrigerator and freezer.

Very Long Term – For the extremely long term, let me remind you of something a salty chef said to a group of us at the Seattle Boat Show last year. “People in other countries? They eat.” You don't need the 50-pound bag of rice, 100 cans of Vegie-Mix, and 30 pounds of dried navy beans. Buy what you can eat in a week, two at the outside, and save all the space for things you can't easily find while you are traveling in other countries.

In our case, we've got every spare inch not already full of box red wine crammed full of Jiffy Peanut Butter. It's a life style choice.

1 comment:

Meg_L said...

I have to laugh at the peanut butter comment. We had an exchange student from Columbia a few years ago. She thought getting cheap peanut butter was the most amazing thing about being in the states.