My culinary skills have improved immeasurably since Laurent left the boat and I became honorary cook. It's been quite an awakening to discover a latent interest in something I've traditionally regarded as a pain in the proverbials; cooking in the bush was OK, because I had such a long time in which to do it, but my kitchen was little more than a camping stove, so the standard of my meals was pretty lousy (although very good in terms of nutrients, vitamins, carbohydrates, fibre and all that). I now have a whole galley to myself, a huge stock of ingredients, and time to be creative. It'll be a different story when the boat's pitching and rolling to 45°, but while we're in nice calm anchorage, it's wonderful.
And by 'cooking' I don't mean the reasonably standard spaghetti bolognese, stir fry, bangers and beans kind of meal, I mean real feasts with inventive use of spices; proper cooking with a modicum of help from recipe books. Witness the following successes from the kitchen of Zeke, all in the first few days of my self-appointment as chef...
On 14th May, we got given a rib cage from a goat that had been slaughtered that afternoon, so I cleaned it up, cut up the ribs and roasted them in a garlic and thyme concoction, producing spare ribs that would have made a restaurant proud. The main course of chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce with roast potatoes knocked every meal we'd had on the ocean into a hat. We finished off with a banana cake I'd thrown together, and which tasted delicious (though I say so myself).
The next day, encouraged by my success with the banana cake, I made a less successful, but perfectly delightful mango cake from the fruits of our day with Napoleon, and for a main course we had pancakes with a pork curry filling (the pork had to be curried, as it was about to walk out of the fridge and demand squatter's rights). It went down a treat.
The night of Peeyoo's visit, I concocted a meat loaf, something I'd never even thought of making before. Damn, it's easy, and tastes bloody good with sautéed potatoes in garlic and basil. It makes me hungry just thinking about it.
I've even cooked a pizza (and I now know two different ways of making the dough), and I've become a complete expert at making the most flavoursome and filling white bread. Meanwhile, all this fresh fruit has spawned a collection of fruity and milky drinks that are heaven after a heavy snorkelling session.
I can even cook ANZAC biscuits, a traditional Australian cookie. The English know them as flapjacks, but the Aussie story is that the ANZAC soldiers at Gallipoli only had access to golden syrup, oats, sugar and flour, so they combined them to come up with these delicious cookies. I decided to cook some to try to make a dent in the massive supply of rolled oats we had on board; we'd bought loads of oats in New Zealand because we'd thought that porridge would be the best breakfast idea on the boat, but I've thrown up so much of it that I'm simply not interested any more, and we've still got about ten huge bags of the stuff. One day I'll discover something that requires mountains of rolled oats, but until then it's acting as padding for all the cans so they don't rattle in the night. They were damn fine cookies, though.
On the subject of food, I've bloated since arriving in paradise. To be fair, when I arrived after 28 days of appetite and breakfast loss I was as thin as a rake, and my hips stuck out like Karen Carpenter's rib cage. I am glad to report, then, that after only a few weeks of fine and copious food, I am beginning to grow fat (at least, fat by my standards) and can, once again, pinch an inch. It's good to be back, especially as this gut was replenished without the aid of beer, which at over US$2 a bottle here is a definite luxury.