Keet asks, “If you're preparing a meal on the boat for honored guests, what do you make?”
If you cruise at all, you know that what you make when guests are aboard is whatever you currently have stored in lockers in sufficient quantity that you can serve that many people. Sometimes, you do something really nice for friendly fellow boaters. Sometimes, you’re lucky to find stale pretzels. It depends a great deal on how long it has been since the last provisioning stop.
The cruiser culture is amazingly generous and open. People share everything when necessity requires. Socializing is lubricated with shared food and beverages. The trick is not to have something really special -- the trick is just to have something to share. A bag of chips, a box of crackers, a hand made dip, a fresh baked loaf of bread with butter, or a cabbage slaw salad to add to the fish someone else supplies.
If you are just getting started in the cruising life, I encourage you to take these steps:
Guest Food -- Keep a box or locker of foods that you pull out only when you have a guest aboard. For example, I keep a spice cake mix and can of pumpkin at all times so I can throw together breakfast muffins. I always have a bag of chips and a jar of salsa that are off limits as well. Cream cheese keeps for weeks in the refrigerator, so I maintain a supply of dried herbs and a box of crackers which I can throw together when needed.
Signature Drink -- Do not underestimate the value of creating your own boat’s signature drink. Once you’ve selected the drink, always always ALWAYS have the ingredients in stock. For Don Quixote’s drink recipe, see Stormy Sunset.
Pot Dinner -- In contrast with pot luck, pot dinner is a recipe you can make in large quantity in your pressure cooker. Make sure you have at least one recipe for which the majority of ingredients are dried or cured. Like your guest food, you save these ingredients until either the last few days before you provision or for the night you come into an anchorage to see a boat you haven’t visited with in four weeks. The pot dinner recipe should be something you can throw into the pot and pressure cook for a half hour while the rest of the family is frantically scraping sand and hair out of the cockpit. Ours is a tomato basil soup which I’ll write up as my next cooking idea.
Note to cruiser dreamers: It takes about a half hour for any boat to roust out their own offering, wrestle it into the dingy and row over to your boat. Any cruiser who manages this maneuver more rapidly is not a good guest. We all need time to hide the dirty underwear.
Bottles of Wine -- The other side to this equation is what do you bring when invited. Of course Guest Food can travel either way; You serve it or you take it to another boat. You can’t nip to the nearest liquor store on your way to a fellow anchored vessel, however, so stock up. Cheap is fine, just make sure you have conveniently stashed away a good half dozen “guest bottles” you can grab when you go visiting.
Portable Dishware -- Nobody ships out with enough glasses, plates, and utensils for guests. When you visit other boats, take your own dishware as well as your shared food. If you are new to the boat, you won’t be expected to help with clean up. Just take your dirties with you. I recommend a sturdy, plastic carrying bag for this purpose that you can sluice out after visits. We use a two dollar variety available from Ikea. If you are visiting a buddy boat -- and thus routinely meet up for breakfasts, hikes, dinners, and other adventures -- you should ease your way into helping with after meal clean up. Some galley chefs will fend you off, others welcome your assistance. Play it by ear.
Remember Your Ratio -- We have five mouths to feed. Most boats we visit have considerably fewer. As a result, we contribute proportionately to shared meals. Remember, most cruisers have a well thought out plan to provision the boat from Point A to Point B. Particularly if you are in a zone with “next services 2 weeks”, we all have enough food aboard to feed our family for the duration and not a great deal more. It is rude to eat two days of another boat’s rations.