Friday, 18 June 2010

Food for Thought - Motion of the Ocean.

For my second contribution to the fortnightly "Food for Thought" blog I have chosen -

The Motion of the Ocean 

by Janna Cawrse Esarey.

I am going to award this book three stars out of five.

As the cover says, 1 small boat, 2 average lovers, and a woman's search for the meaning of wife. The parallels to my own experience plus the fact that this book serendipitously found me at a marina book swap ensured that I had to read and review this title!

Somewhere fifty miles off the coast of Oregon I realize the skipper of this very small ship is an asshole.

He also happens to be my husband.

He's down below, cooking Top Ramen, which will be the fifth time we've had Top Ramen in almost as many days. Not that I'm mad about that. Actually, he's chopping carrots and cabbage and onions- and I can small the garlic from here- so it's bound to be good. Which makes him sound like a kind, nurturing, non-assholey sort of guy, cooking a meal for his bride on a boat that's rocking like the fun house in Grease.
Hmm, not a good beginning as far as I am concerned. But let's stick with the story. Janna and her husband,Graeme,after a protracted and at times painful courtship, set off to sail across the Pacific in their boat Dragonfly. To be accurate they set off to sail across the Pacific to Hong Kong with the intention of returning via the Northern Pacific making it a round trip.

Now it may be my age, the fact that I too have lived this (or a very similar) adventure but I just couldn't get to grips with Janna's writing. Perhaps I was expecting more of a sailing story and found that in reality I had got a book about a relationship. One that was examining in pretty close detail every aspect of this couple's life together.Far too much information at times! The fact that it is set upon the ocean seemed pretty irrelevant, it was simply a vehicle on which the writer was able to hang the tale that she wanted to tell. Nothing wrong with that I guess but I began to feel somewhat conned early on in the book.

I've got mesh bags for dirty laundry, hammocks for clean, collapsible buckets for water, milk crates for linens, tiny boxes for nuts and bolts, Ziplocs for medications, and woven baskets for just about everything else. Plus, I've measured every inch of cupboard space aboard Dragonfly and have systematically installed stackable,plastic,covered bins for all our foodstuff. Each box has a label, and each has it's place. I call it custom design. Graeme, having to pull out two bins of granola;a bars to access the bin of pasta, calls it a pain in the ass.
A lot of her descriptions of life at sea ring true:

If you want to know what it's like to cook on a boat in rough seas, try this: First, rename your kitchen "galley".Then cut it to a fifth it's regular size (unless you live in Manhattan, in which case cut it in half). Then say goodbye to everything you might expect or want or need in a kitchen, and say hello to this: A shallow, leak-prone sink whose moldy caulk sticks out around the edges. A small rusty oven that has no chance of fitting a full-size salmon, let alone a turkey. Say hello to a three-burner, manually-lit propane stove whose knobs refuse to turn without the full-court press of your right palm pushing while your left hand trembles with its damp match that-damn!- blows out in the slightest breeze.
Don't offer your greetings to a garbage disposal. A dishwasher. Or countertops. But hey, what you lose there, you make up in faucets! You have three: One saltwater foot pump that draws directly from the frigid and, depending where you are, polluted water beneath the boat, and smells sulfry, like millions of tiny organisms have crawled into the pipes and died (they have).One freshwater hand pump that's made of brass, and therefor looks very nauti-cool, but that loses it prime, i.e., it's ability to pump water, in between each use. And one normal freshwater faucet that has hot water if the engine's been running long enough, but which your evil husband forbids you to use because it draws off the batteries and Rule of Rules: On a boat, where you're unplugged from the grid, you must!conserve!batteries!

Now take your new galley, stock it with crappy cooking gear you used car camping and place it in the small,stuffy,mildew-prone box that is a fibreglass sailboat hull. Now, tilt, or "heel" the whole thing thirty degrees- that's right, make your floor as steep as a hillside- and bash the whole thing into waves as hard as brick walls. Over and over and over.

OK. Now. Cook!

Well I expect that was accurate on their boat, and on many out there on the ocean but I was beginning to find the whole tone of this book a bit exaggerated and 'hyper'. With a husband who had been a deep sea fisherman and parents who were experienced bluewater sailors I was starting to think that Ms Esery was complaining a tad too much. Come on, a lot of this was no surprise to her and yet we are regaled with 'shock horror' prose in virtually every chapter.

Maybe I know(or think I know!) too much about the subject but ultimately this book irritated me with it's naivety, which I felt was somewhat contrived, and it's introspection that just didn't ring true for me.

The king scrapes the bottom of the bowl with his cracker.
'Good dip,' he says, looking at me. 'Tuna?'
I shake my head and point at Graeme, the real chef.
'Sardines', Graeme says.

I found myself becoming increasingly irritated with Janna's self indulgent critique of the minutest details of her relationship with the long suffering Graeme. I am not at all surprised that they are no longer cruising I'd have thrown her overboard a long time ago!

There is a scarcity of food related quotes in the book, a bit of a surprise as in my experience a lot of sailing revolves around the galley and what is being prepared for the next meal. So I had a hunt round for a sardine dip recipe. I can't say the idea excited either myself or my husband but what the heck. That's what Food for thought is about right? Trying something you wouldn't normally do!

So a trip to the market furnished me with the necessary ingredients and I set to. Now you can pop all this in the food processor, I minced everything first in my hand mincer, jolly good job it did too!

Sardine Dip

1 can sardines, drained
8oz cream cheese
1tsp lemon juice
1tsp  Worcester sauce
2 green onions
large bunch of parsley
pinch of chili powder
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Blend everything together and chill for at least an hour before serving...
Actually it was pretty good though I may have overdone the parsley a tad, still it turned out an attractive green colour without too overpowering a taste of sardine..

To go with it I made a batch of cheese biscuits

100g butter
100g flour
100g cheese (I used half Parmesan, half Cheddar)
poppy seeds, sesame seeds and caraway seeds

1 egg yolk
1tbsp water

Heat the oven to Gas Mark 5

Rub together the cheese, butter and flour until you have a smooth dough. Form into a log approx 5cm in diameter. Cover tightly in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Grease two baking trays. remove dough from fridge and using a hot knife cut as thinly as possible and lay biscuits on tray.
Combine egg yolk and water and brush biscuits. Sprinkle with little paprika and then one of the seeds. I made 8 in each flavour.
Bake for 5-10 minutes until lightly browned.

Now these really were good, cleaned them up before they had a chance to cool!

Soon there's a long, fat tuna on deck, slapping and bleeding all over the place. Naked Man bonks it with his fish bonker. Naked Man bonks it again. The fish gives one last quiver and then Naked Man is crouching with knife, slitting the belly and slicing out guts. Let's hope he doesn't slip with that knife. I avert my eyes for about the fiftieth time and busy myself gathering chopsticks and soy sauce and wasabi.

Yes! Now the girl is getting in touch with a bit of gourmet heaven~! I delight in catching a fish and preparing sushi, there can be nothing better, or fresher in the whole world..

The video is one we made for my husband's mother's birthday to show her what the cruising life is really like.I hope that you enjoy sharing it with me. As you can see we have somewhat more comfort that the writer of the book, and a much better galley!


RoseH_Huls21365 said...

Never put off till tomorrow what may be done today...................................................................

Mary said...

Fun review! Even though you would have tossed Janna overboard, I'm glad you didn't throw the book overboard too :-) Some of the passages look entertaining, not being a sailor myself, I probably would whine alot with the space-challenged living environment, but heck, look at your view!

Sardine Dip is probably not something I would normally try either, but everything is good with cream cheese. Your cheese biscuits look delish too...

Your video was not loading when I visited, I'll check back since I would love to see your crusing life & your galley. Thanks for sharing~

Gerry said...

Thank you for that Mary. The video is now working. I had some problems uploading the film, one of the penalties of a slow internet link, but it should be fine now.

I found this a very difficult book to review. It is difficult to separate one's own experiences and remain objective to the words of the writer. I don't think that I conquered that challenge particularly well!

once in a blue moon... said...

i am thrilled you reviewed this too, i love to read what others have to say and do too. this book was made for you, since you are living the life! i so agree, its not a tale of the sea, she is just beginning her life, i am old and settled, her relationship angst was a bit much for me... i gave her high marks because she is so different from me, an adventure seeker, like you, but since you are living that life i can certainly see why you rated it a 3. she is so whiny about their relationship and knit picky, it was irritating, but the fact that she was willing to live on a tiny boat for years amazed me that i dismissed that part and went with the big pic of being a free spirit traveling to see the world. plus she found her passion, writing~

you may not have enjoyed the book, but you made a new snack! look for the positive, right?

i LOVE your video, how touching that you can share those moments with you mother in law. i love seeing others live out their dream, sailing around the world like you have been is amazing to me. YOU are the one who should be writing a book, us landlubbers will eat this stuff right up!

was that a dolphin your husband was trying to swim with? i squeal with delight every time i see them...

thank you so much for joining in, i love seeing and learning from others. fft really lets us express ourselves thru books, such a fun way to share!

Maggie said...

Trying something new is always fun, but I'm not sure I would be brave enough to try sardine dip... ewww! haha!

Gerry said...

Yes that was the dolphin! But as usual every time I get a camera out I am rewarded with the tail of a fish fast disappearing toward the horizon, ah well.

I am greatly enjoying the challenge of being a part of your wonderful idea. Thank you.

Gerry said...

Pretty much my thoughts too Maggie!
But it wasn't so bad, particularly with the strong flavoured cheese biccies.
You can't win 'em all!

Mary said...

LOVE your video~ scrubbing the chain, laundry in the breeze & lobster/sushi from the sea! What a life *sigh*~ Here's wishing you smooth sailing :-)

Anonymous said...

Quality is better than quantity.....................................................................

Ken said...

Missing your stimulating posts. Hope everything is OK. Best regards, Ken.