Preparing — and eating — meals underway takes a little bit extra planning and care. On all but the calmest days, it can be tough to cook with the stove swinging on its gimbals, not to mention getting into the refrigerator or just getting ingredients out as the boat is moving. Even eating is harder than usual as food tries to slide across your plate.
- Pre-cook meals. Fixing meals ahead of time is a huge help. While many think of preparing hot dishes ahead of time so they can just be reheated, it’s also a good strategy for cold meals as well. While you can’t cook ahead for the entire duration of long passages, you can still cook ahead on mild days if heavier weather is expected.
- Serve in mugs. If conditions are even the slightest bit rough, serving food in mugs instead of plates or even bowls helps avoid spillage. Large insulated mugs will hold more, but you may prefer regular coffee mugs so that you can slip the mugs into standard drink holders to free your hands up.
- One dish meals. It’s hard to juggle multiple dishes, so we like one-dish meals.
- Bite-sized food. Unless it’s calm, it’s hard to cut anything up.
- Spoon food. It’s generally easier to eat with a spoon than a fork — food is less likely to fall off and if the boat moves at the wrong moment, a spoon won’t stab your face!
- Thicken soups and stews. On cold days, hot soup or stew can really warm everyone up. Make soups and stews easier to eat by thickening them — add extra flour as you’re cooking it (be sure to cook several minutes after adding the flour both to allow it to thicken and to avoid the raw flour taste).
- Never serve scalding hot food. Very hot food can burn if it spills on someone, and no one wants to take a bite of dinner only to burn their mouth. If food is really hot as you dish it up, place the dishes/mugs in the sink for a few minutes until the food cools to a temperature that won’t burn.
- Thermos for coffee and hot water. Having hot drinks readily available is wonderful if it’s chilly. An airpot makes it really easy to serve! Read more about the best Thermoses and airpots.
- Sit! As much as possible, sit to do any food prep underway — especially if using a knife.
- Use the sink. Place hot pans in the sink so they won’t slide and cause burns; wedge mugs into the sink to pour hot liquids into them both to avoid burns on your hands if the boat moves and to contain any spills.
- Pot restraints and stove gimbals. Use both when underway to avoid having a hot pan launched across the boat, potentially injuring someone. Read more about pot restraints and stove gimbals.
- Grab and eat. Keep some of what I call “grab and eat” foods readily accessible in case it gets too rough to cook: dried fruit, granola/energy bars; nuts; peanut butter and crackers or whatever else you like.
- Refrigerator doors and lids. Every boat refrigerator is different, but be careful that the door or lid doesn’t smash into you as you’re peering inside. Top opening refrigerators are notorious for causing injuries this way, but they’re easy to prevent if you totally remove lids and put them in a safe place or use safety latches.
On passage, Dave and I tried to have one meal a day together as we changed watches. At other times, we’d just eat as we felt like it. I’d usually make a large bowl of pasta or rice salad that we could dish up whenever we wanted, and I’d have other simple food available. We found that we didn’t eat “real meals” as such except for our one meal together, although we didn’t eat junk food either. Instead, we might have a cup of yogurt, a piece of fruit, or some cheese at various times throughout the day. However, I also have a number of friends who eat more of a “breakfast, lunch and dinner” on passage — it’s really a case of what works for you.