We almost crashed today. We were on one of our afternoon sails. Usually I am down in the galley, making dinner. But there is a shield that I have to “tack” when the boat changes course. Otherwise the wind comes straight down the chimney and dampens the flame on the diesel stove; smoke fills the galley and bits of creosote spit out onto the range. I just happened to be on deck tacking the shield when I looked up and noticed that the shore, and the Georgia Queen (the sight-seeing boat that docks in front of us), were closing in at great speed. And we were not heading in the right direction (that is to say, we were not facing up or down river).
Since it is my job, when we dock and undock, to position the roving fender, I ran for the fender. But I realized as I got to the bow how futile that was. Our bowsprit is over ten feet long. (Ie., we would have needed a twelve-foot fender to fend off the Georgia Queen.) The first mate called out to drop the sail and the captain steered us away under engine power.
As I walked to mid-ships, I heard the passengers were talking amongst themselves; they knew it was a close call. How could we reassure them? Turn their expectations around? Make them feel that it really was a very safe ride we were about to have? Not wanting the passengers to see that my hands were shaking from the post-adrenaline rush, I went back down into the galley.
May 23rd, Take Two
Though it’s a liability if something goes wrong, in the galley I can think. So after I our close call with bowsprit destruction, I went down to my bunk and made grocery lists and menus. And thought about Mollie Katzen. If it weren’t for Mollie Katzen, I would probably not be cooking today.
My mother is a fabulous cook. I didn’t realize how great she was until I went away to college and was forced to subsist on dorm food. But growing up, I didn’t cook all that much, but I can’t claim to be like those chefs who were inventing ways to freeze bacon grease before they were potty trained. In fact, I don’t think I realized how much I liked to eat until college. For me college was an awakening: to the complexities of the Christian church; to the academic world; to serious discussions about life; to Bob Dylan and the Indigo Girls (thank you, Chris); and to cooking and eating well.
Somewhere during this period, I bought The Enchanted Broccoli Forrest. I cooked my way through that book. I learned to bake bread for the first time using that book. In the back there’s a guide to using spices, if one opted to go free-wheeling. What I learned most from her were flavor profiles, before chefs started using that term.
Though I may have indeed found my way to a food-loving lifestyle without Ms. Katzen, I certainly would not have cooked what I cooked today.<
For lunch I served a salad of oven-roasted zucchini, yellow squash and eggplant doused in red wine vinegar and olive oil, with chopped roma tomatoes and basil and sautéed garlic on top. (I think I actually got this from Moosewood Cooks at Home, but I wouldn’ve have discovered that cookbook without Mollie either). And for dinner I’m making Re-baked Potatoes according to Mollie’s recipe.
I do not have either The Enchanted Broccoli Forrest or the Moosewood Cookbook with me on this trip. My copies are battered and torn and re-glued along the seams and reinforced with packing tape. I feared for the fate on a schooner. Besides, I no longer really need them. The recipes are so ingrained in me, I have only to think about polenta, say, and her recipe for polenta pizza comes to mind. Curried Potato Soup. Artichoke Pasta. Cabbage and blue cheese sandwiches. Marianted Red Onions. I left the books with my sister and told her to treat them very carefully.
A few weeks went by before she wrote to say that she was preparing to make dinner that night and brought out the Moosewood cookbooks. Her two-year-old son was at the table eating an orange for his snack and he looked at her and said, “That’s Cole-Cole’s cookbook.”