The ancient mariner responsible for the lugubrious terminology of boat kitchens must have hated cooking. Why otherwise would he have chosen the name of an infamous type of ship, rowed by straining slaves chained at the long oars?
True, the galley of a little pleasure boat is not the easiest place in which to operate. The stove probably has only two burners and nothing else; no oven and no broiler. The nautical chef is limited to top-stove cooking. Furthermore, if the stove burns liquid fuel, as most do, the cook must keep an eye on the fuel supply; swearing doesn't help a steak that is half cooked when the tank runs dry.
Even so, in the smallest of galleys any chef of modest ambition can produce food in the tradition of the haute cuisine. The problem is to find your bearings, and to learn a few tricks of the sea cook's trade.
For instance, never fill a pot to capacity. Half full is the best rule even when the boat is anchored in a quiet harbor; you never can tell when some passing craft will kick up waves that will cause the pot to slop over. It follows that if the aim is to satisfy a bunch of hearty eaters a lot of extra cooking utensils are needed.
Fussy dishes, however, should be scorned; leave those for the chef of the lie de France. Why go to the trouble when perfection is more easily attained with plain scrambled or fried eggs and ham? Freshly caught fish saut�ed in butter and sauced with a jigger or two of white wine is as good as any restaurant's English sole bonne femme.
Blue water creates big appetites, and portions in landlubberish cookbooks should be multiplied accordingly. Many cookbooks figure that a pound of meat will serve four, but not on board a boat, where a half pound or more per person is the normal ration. All the following recipes (serving four) are based on ripened sea appetites so that, as oldtimers say, skipper and crew will "eat hearty and give the ship a good name."
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in soup pot, add one tablespoon minced onion and cook until yellow. Blend in 2 tablespoons flour, and when paste is smooth gradually add one quart milk. Heat to the boiling point; stir continuously to prevent scorching and then add � pound Cheddar cheese cut into small pieces. When cheese is melted and soup slightly thickened, stir in one egg yolk blended with � cup cream, toss in jigger or two of sherry (2 jiggers if soup is thick) and ladle it out.
CHICKEN STEW—South American. Heat � cup olive oil in stew pot, cut 4-pound frying chicken into quarters and saut� until bird is a light tan. Next add � cup minced onions, �, cup minced green peppers, 3 chopped canned pimentos, celery (� cup, chopped), garlic (one clove, minced) and black olives (� cup, chopped), toss around in oil for about five minutes, add seasoning (one tablespoon salt, � teaspoon pepper, 2 bay leaves) and 2 cups canned tomatoes. Cover pot and cook for approximately 45 minutes.
FISH STEW—Italian style. Heat � cup olive oil in a stew pot and saut� one tablespoon minced onion, 2 finely chopped garlic cloves and � cup chopped celery until golden. Add 3 cups of canned Italian-type tomatoes, one cup of tomato paste, seasoning (pepper, marjoram, salt, 2 bay leaves) and simmer about an hour. While sauce cooks, cut 2 pounds of cod into chunks, wash one pound raw shrimp and 2 dozen small clams. Put in shrimp, 10 minutes later cod, five minutes later clams. When clam shells begin to open, add 2 boiled lobsters which have been cut into pieces.
Stale bread is better than fresh for this specialty. Fry 12 strips of bacon and when they are crisp remove from pan and pour off all but 3 tablespoons of bacon fat. Beat 2 eggs, blend them into one can condensed tomato soup, add salt and Worcestershire sauce, and dunk slices of bread into this mixture. Each slice should be allowed to soak up as much as it will hold without becoming soggy. Fry bread in the hot bacon fat and serve surrounded by the bacon.