From a box
“Hey, she came back!” said the captain the next morning when I entered the galley an hour before muster and found him sitting at the nav station in the main salon.
The surprise seemed partly genuine and partly a line he had used a hundred times.
It was my first full day on the job. I got to work making pancakes for breakfast. But nobody told me that the front burner only works on high and that the griddle on the stove top takes a half-hour to warm up… So 15 minutes until show-time, I had scorched half of the pancakes while the other half simply weren’t cooking. Oh! And there was no spatula! But I sallied through, flipping half of them quickly and waiting patiently for the others. The crew was grateful. They said the pancakes tasted great. I smiled, tight-lipped; it was the first time I’d ever made pancakes from a box.
Breakfast out of the way, I started planning for dinner. I took a large piece of unlabeled meat out of the freezer and decided I’d make Thai food, to see how much heat they could take.
“You like green curry?” Filip asked. He had become my defacto crew liaison and kitchen advisor.
“Excellent,” he said, looking hungry.
For some reason I hadn’t yet thought through lunch. When I arrived, the crew had been scraping a mean living by using up old stuff in their pantry and freezer. As part of this effort, Filip had soaked about ten bags of beans. I began cooking them but they weren’t getting soft… so I called my mom. Then I called a chef friend. I seemed to be doing everything right.
“They might be old,” said Filip.
This should not have surprised me. But I had no backup plan. I gave myself an hour. When the beans weren’t ready by 11:30 am, I borrowed the captain’s truck, drove to the store to buy canned beans, and managed to put lunch on the table just in time.
Best cooking job ever
At dinner the captain and first mate pulled me aside. Here’s what they said: this is your space. You take orders from no one but us. You can make whatever you want and the crew has to eat it. No one opens the fridge or the freezer without your permission. You have the power to send people out of the galley at any time; in fact, they should not be hanging out here bothering you. As long as the food is hot and on time, everything else is up to you.
“I’ve yelled at everyone on the boat with the exception of the cook,” the captain added.
Basically, what he was saying was that I had landed the best cooking job – ever.
For dinner I made Thai green curry, with beef for the meat eaters and a spaghetti squash and potato version for the vegetarians, with pickled cucumber salad on the side.
Oh. And brownies for dessert! What a day. After dinner the captain asked the crew, “Well, should we keep her?”
Filip gave me the thumbs up. The others nodded; they were busy eating.