Over the years, many people have assigned a particular image to liveaboards. Specifically, crusty old sailors with seaweed-infested beards, old rags for clothes, and maybe an eye patch. Perhaps the greatest association however, is the smell of fish. Consequently, whenever I'm asked, "What do you do for food?" I like to retort with, "Canned tuna and crackers, obviously." Apparently we're archaic vagabonds lacking any modern conveniences... like a stove.
As sailors, we love the beauty of the ocean and the freedom it brings; good food is part of that experience. We know there's nothing more enjoyable than dropping anchor after a long day under sail, cracking open a frosty beverage, and eating a good meal. As someone who enjoys cooking, non-perishable foods that spice up any meal are crucial. These ingredients are essential to any seafaring chef, but they should be used in land-based kitchens as well.
I’m obsessed with peppers. Born and raised in Southern California, my taste buds usually crave Hispanic flavors. Jalapeños, habaneros, chipotles, poblanos, chilacas, cayennes—whether you enjoy spicy or mellow flavors, there’s a savory pepper for any dish. They’re easy to store, don't require refrigeration, and last forever. Dice them up and add to meat, burritos, soup, tacos and salad. Or stuff and cook them with cheese, rice, meat and more for a delicious meal.
Like peppers, potatoes are non-perishable and easy to store. Feeling patriotic? Slice them up with oil on a pan to make some all-American French fries. Feeling European? Mix diced potato with rutabaga and kale for a warming, winter soup. Or simply wrap them in foil and throw on the grill for a filling baked (or twice-baked) potato meal.
Garlic is great, but tempting as it may be, avoid eating it on its own. You’ll only contribute to the ‘sailors are smelly rogues’ mentality. But add a bit of garlic to nearly any dish, and you’ll bring flavor to an otherwise bland meal. Cook some on the stove with meat and vegetables, or grind into a powder and mix into your favorite dish. A little garlic goes a long way.
Like Garlic, avoid eating onions like apples. My father gave into this dark path years ago, and while that may be fine for a happily married man, single men sporting onion breath tend to drive women away. However, feel free to mix diced onions into meat on a skillet, cook larger slices with vegetables, grill them with burgers or fish, use them for shish kabobs, and more. Note that after a few weeks in a cabin, your onions may begin to sprout.
Noodles are lightweight, non-perishable, and (as long as they’re properly sealed) last forever, even on boats. Once cooked they expand, producing a filling meal for plenty of people. Boil them and combine the cooked noodles with a bit of olive oil, meat, peppers, garlic, onion and cheese, for a simple but satisfying dinner.
I’ve stored bags of rice in every corner of my boat on varying occasions. Make sure your bag is watertight; moisture will cause the rice to expand, bursting the bag and making a mess. (Don’t ask me how I know.) Use it as a side dish, in sushi, stuffed into peppers, for a burrito, with Russian chicken... the options are endless for a variety of filling dinners.
Basil, cayenne pepper, dill, ginger, garlic, mint, nutmeg, paprika, rosemary, cinnamon; every cook should keep an assortment of spices in the pantry. Add them to meat, pasta, soup or vegetables. Any meal can benefit from the addition of some spice.
While large, heavy and difficult to open, coconuts are one of the most versatile foods. Their water is subjectively delicious, and their meat tastes great baked into various dishes and desserts. If you're willing to take the time and effort, coconuts can produce substitutes for dairy milk, flour, sugar and oil. Remember the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding? I’m told my obsession with coconut oil is similar to his with Windex, but for good reason I assure you. Coconut oil has countless uses, like acting as a natural sunblock, coffee creamer, chapstick, toothpaste, and so much more.
Eggs are essential to any baking recipe, yet many of us leave them behind when fridge space is limited. I once worked for an old German sailor who crossed the Atlantic in a 25’ keelboat to find a new home in America. He shared with me the genius trick he used to keep eggs fresh without refrigeration: rub a thin coat of vaseline on the shell of each egg, and they’ll keep for the entire crossing.
If you’re anything like me, you typically avoid dried fruit, especially raisins. They just don’t taste great, you know? Yet, when mixed in with other foods they provide fantastic accent flavor. Stuff and cook them with rice and meat inside a pepper, mix them into rice for a great side dish, or add them to various meats, vegetables and salads.
Whatever your personal favorites are, these items all belong onboard your boat. Stowed and prepared properly, you’ll be in for gourmet treats every time you drop the anchor.
Oh, and one more thing: don’t forget the canned tuna and crackers.