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Photographs by Nadja Bülow

Thoughts of a ship’s cook

August 22nd, 2008 by Misja · No Comments

One of the few clichés about Russia that actually is true was the huge amount of vodka in the supermarkets. Luckily I had Elena -our Russian crewmember- with me, to direct me towards the ones that have the smoothest taste and are the least headache-inducing. A few days later I was again at a huge supermarket –appropriately named ‘Bomba’- to do the groceries for seven days for thirty people. Elena had to translate at the custom service, so with nothing but Cyrillic writings on the products, it felt like a big puzzle to find out what we were buying. It even felt acceptable to open all sorts of packages to smell and taste if it was milk, yoghurt, cream or kefir.

An even bigger challenge was to figure out the amounts. Unlike other people who exactly calculate how many spoons of olive oil and so on they need for each recipe, I thought I could decide the amount of ingredients more or less ‘aus dem Ärmel’. Standing in front of boxes filled with kilos of vegetables, absurd amounts of pasta and rice bags, bushes of basil and peppermint, it suddenly felt really hard to decide how much was enough. Since I was responsible for the cooking, I definitely didn’t want hungry stomachs on board. Two voices battling in my head: What if we can’t enter a harbour for a couple of days? With all the sailing and fresh air, the crew will eat a lot. But then we gathered so much food that I couldn’t imagine we would be able to consume all this fresh stuff, before it gets rotten. And I already pictured Suza’s angry face when seeing the receipt -she had the thankful job to keep the budget in mind…
After three hours in Bomba and another three on the marketplace, we had a receipt over one meter long and a sprinter car full of food. Now the real action could start. In the ship’s kitchen we discovered that there was no blender to smash the vegetables I had already cooked for the tomato soup we would have for lunch. Being creative with a spoon and a sieve in a kitchen that feels like a sauna is only funny afterwards. The hungry crew impatiently gathered on deck. Finally we managed to make something that did look like tomato soup, served with garlic bread from the oven. Will they like it, is it too spicy, too salty, too watery, will it be enough? Maybe I should have used a real recipe instead of thinking I could do this more or less spontaneously… To my relief everybody ate it, liked it, came for another plate, and complimented the cooking.

The satisfied feeling wasn’t there to stay; the ship caught extreme waves directly after lunch, shaking us from left to right, up and down. I saw all the hours of work come out in several colours of the rainbow, ending up over the railing into the Baltic sea. I took a deep breath and went downstairs to start preparations for dinner.

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