Thursday, June 14, 2007

Provisioning

Among cruiser couples there are generally conceded to be "pink" jobs and "blue" jobs. The former usually include provisioning, cooking, inventory management and cleaning. The latter almost always includes engine and machine maintenance/installation, plumbing, electrical work and most winching/hauling. In our case we both do communications (SSB, VHF and email), navigation and steering, taking equal watches, but Heather drives the boat into marinas and anchorages while Scott runs around the deck handling ropes/anchor and giving helpful advice.
"How do you plan on shopping and menus for weeks or months on a boat?", is a common question. Many cruising women I know write out menus for their voyages and some even cook up a lot of the dishes in advance. These are then put in portions and frozen. We don't have a freezer so this isn't an option for us.
"What - you don't have a freezer on that big boat!"
Well, I really never used a freezer on land ,other than for ice and ice cream. We do miss the ice cream but we have a ice maker on board, so it hasn't been a problem yet. Putting one in is a big job because the beautiful wood work and counters in the galley would have to be all redone. So I thought I'd add my two cents worth on the subject of provisioning in this entry. Skip it if you're not interested!

Like at home the first job is to buy all the basics. We carry stocks of these following for six months. Common to most would be; flour (white and whole wheat, regular and bread types), corn meal, sugar, baking powder & soda, yeast, vegetable and extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, peanut butter, spices, coffee (I bring 2.5 lb bags of my favorite French roast beans down with me from the States), teas, dried fruit, dried beans, rice (brown, white and risotto), and many kinds of pasta. Dry goods include cereal, crackers, long life bread, couscous, bread crumbs, nuts, and dried soup mixes. Most of these things can be replaced but at the major islands or cities but the price will be generally higher and the selection poorer.
Canned goods keep for a long time and are necessary for emergency purposes. Often used types are tuna, salmon, shrimp, crab, sardines, anchovies, clams, smoked oysters, canned tomatoes and sauces/paste, mushrooms, and beef/chicken broth. Jars of pesto, marinated artichokes, bruschetta and chutney make special meals easy. Polenta in a tube makes a quick elegant touch. Tuna steaks and chicken breasts now come all cooked in individual vacuum packed foil servings (pretty expensive so kept for emergencies). We happen to treat ourselves traditionally after long passages with corn beef or roast beef hash (with eggs) so I always have them on hand. Occasionally we'll open a can of soup, corn, chick peas, black beans, artichokes etc. We have another supply of canned vegetables, corned beef, ham and fruits in case I run out of the fresh ones. This has happened very rarely but recently during our month in totally undeveloped islands off Venezuela, they were a god send. These are all non perishable goods.
Milk is included in this category: UHT dairy products are wonderful things. We have quarts of milk, pints and half pints of heavy cream and cooking cream from France in abundance. We have dried milk as well in case of emergency and for making bread. Yes we can make bread, both the old fashioned way and in our bread machine. I sometimes make easy breads like corn bread and banana bread but until that month in the out islands we found the local breads have been quite good and inexpensive. In the San Blas islands where there are no stores we will have it going again frequently.
There are a number of products that make cooking and eating well easier. A favorite example for me is Zatarin's mixes; gumbo, jambalaya, dirty rice, salmon & crab cake mixes etc. With fresh onions, celery, peppers, tomatoes and any meat/fish available, these are wonderful and quick. Tasty Bite makes a large selection of already cooked Indian foods in foil packets that only have to be heated. I add them to leftovers and serve over rice. We bought a selection of ready made sauces like beurre blanc, trois poivre, sweet and sour, lemon pepper in Trinidad and Martinique that quickly turn whatever we're having into gourmet. Wolfs Kashi & farfalle, Near East mixes etc. are all handy. I also like to have some hors d'oeuve type mixes like salmon & crab cake, falafel, baccala fritters, hummus, black bean dip etc.

The second category is perishable but long lasting fruits and vegetables. We always have onions, garlic, carrots, and potatoes on board. When I can find them we add winter squash, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, plantains, apples and starting out, green bananas. These can all manage out of the frig if necessary and some always stay there. We hang most in net hammocks in the V berth. Some are in those green long life bags in the frig. Parmesano Regiano is sort of in this category. I bring a huge chunk with me from the States and it keeps for months in the back of the frig.

Next are the fresh products that make up my usual shopping list. Always included and usually available everywhere are lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, green onions and cabbage (mostly for cole slaw after the lettuce is gone)Fresh seasoning packets (shown in lower right hand corner of the picture here in a local outdoor market) which include small peppers, green onions, thyme, and whatever other fresh herb they have are sold everywhere. Many places I can get zucchini, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, purple top turnips, beets and local vegetables like dasheen, breadfruit, callaloo and other greens - sometimes spinach. When in season (and on certain islands) we get pineapple, papaya, mangoes and other local fruits.

And then there is meat and/or fish. On the small islands there is little and when there is, it's frozen, unless, in the case of fish, you can buy from a fisherman or a fish market (photo here is of the selection at a small fish market). Sometimes we can get fresh chicken legs (heaven knows where the breasts go but they are hardly ever seen in a store) or chunks of pork. Every kind of cheap meat and poultry parts are available though, chicken backs and feet, beef or pork innards. Local beef is often only available in frozen chunks, identified as "Clod",but after much experience, only edible in stew. Larger islands have supermarkets with varying stock. Some, like Grenada, Marguarita, Trinidad or St. Lucia, have a wide variety of goods similar to a normal market in the US. The french islands are different. They are part of France and we traveled up to Martinique partially to replenish our stocks of delicacies; cheeses of every kind, pates, cold cuts and lovely meats, jars of cornichons, olives, pesto, etc.
Most markets carry a few cheddar type cheeses; Anchor cheddar from New Zealand and Cracker Barrel from the US, Philadelphia Cream cheese, and of course, American Cheese Food Product (we skip that). Sometimes I can get some feta cheese or Camembert in a small wheel. Eggs are almost always there. We try and get local eggs, unrefrigerated. They last a long time and don't need to be kept in the frig. Hummus is now often available, but cottage cheese or sour cream is hard to find outside of the big islands.
It is now possible to get whole wheat bread often on even the smallest islands. These little stores will have only a few loaves and we need to get there early to get one. Up in the Bahamas the breads were often sweet. The next size small market will have local bread and a selection of packaged sliced breads, mostly white. In busy harbor areas or near marinas even the small stores will have frozen bagels and some multi grain breads. Again the big island supermarkets have excellent selections, although, unlike the States, they do not have dates on them. The french islands are of course bread heaven - boulangeries sell baguettes, croissants, and pan de chocolat, among much else.

Liquid refreshments are usually easy to find everywhere. Soft drinks are loved by all islanders. We don't drink them often so we keep a few for guest on board only. We do stock up on tonic water whenever we can get it. Everyone does. Scott loves fruit juices and rum punch so we always have a good stock of pineapple juice and when we can get them; orange, mango, guava etc as well. Goya makes great products available in the north and later Orchard does in liter foil boxes (they don't add sugar to theirs). We never have enough of these. In addition we've discovered fruit concentrates available in bottles - locally produced. They come in flavors such as grenadine (necessary for rum punches), tamarind, guava, mixed essence, sorrel and mauby (very popular in Trinidad and tastes a little like root beer or Dr. Pepper). Angostura bitters are also necessary for rum punch. I might as well give you approximately my recipe.
RUM PUNCH - combine 1 quart or liter of pineapple juice with 2 or 3 cups of other juices above, 2- 4 oz of Grenadine syrup, a good shake of Bitters and if you have any of the concentrates (not Mauby) you can add a little of those also or instead of the extra juices. Stir well. Fill a glass with ice, add as much rum as you like and then fill up with punch mixture. Stir. Grate a fresh nutmeg over the top. Float some dark rum on top if you really need a punch! Voila! If you only have pineapple juice that works fine. You can add Coconut Rum along with regular rum - marvelous! If you can get a hold of Punch Coco at one of the local markets, add that in. I personally love it plain over ice with the same amount of dark rum.

Besides rum, we usually have gin, wine, and beer. Most alcholic beverages are available everywhere. In a tiny store with maybe two heads of lettuce and one loaf of bread, they'll have soft drinks and liquor - and OF COURSE beer. If you go through the Dominican Republic you can't buy enough Presidente. That was our favorite - plus it comes in big bottles. If you get to Margaurita you won't buy enough beer - you'll want to sink your boat, it's that cheap. Cans are of course better in general, except those tiny 6 once cans of Heineken (they've got to be kidding). But really all the local beers are pretty good.

Wine is also available everywhere but a limited selection and expensive. The first french island for most people is St. Martin and everyone goes a little crazy, if of course, they love wine. It is possible to buy nice table wine for 2 or 3 euros each. It's also great to have a bottle to bring over to another boat when invited for drinks or dinner. We never bought enough and always ran out before the next french island! Our last trip to Martinique before heading to the western Caribbean we bought several cases. Fairly good wines are also available in 3 or 5 liter boxes. If you aren't familiar with the winery, ask around before committing yourself - they vary in quality.

Cleaning and paper products are another category of provisioning. We have a whole closet of cleaning products. It is remarkable how many things there are on a boat that need special cleaning and there are many products for each. I was so naive that when I saw a fellow cruiser cleaning her stainless steel, it was the first time I realized it needed cleaning. Once you see that rust, you always see it and another task is born. It's hard to resist trying another cleaning product but there is only so much room! This is too big a subject for coverage here. Stocking up on toilet paper, napkins and paper towels when they are cheap is great. Still it is possible to buy them almost everywhere and they take up a lot of room. Everyone develops a few favorite products - if you do, buy a lot. I love swifter dust cloths, Pledge orange oil wipes, Joy detergent, Murphy's Oil Soap, Windex, huge containers of vinegar, and lots of sponges (not always easy to find down here surprisingly). Zip lock bags, freezer quality better, are absolutely necessary and in every size.
Well if anyone in Blog land is out there looking for information on provisioning, I hope this is interesting.

1 comment:

Rodrigo said...

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Até mais.