If one of your cruising guests is a vegetarian, or you yourself prefer meatless meals, Lin Pardey’s latest podcast could be just what you need. Her suggestions are based on interviews with more than two dozen cruising vegetarians and as many professional yacht cooks. Have enough provisions on board for these specialized needs, don’t end up having to throw half of them away, and ideas for those times when you run low on meat.
Vegetarian Cookbooks (Start here and check out more cookbooks in related links.)
Prefer to read? See transcript below.Sponsor: Solavore Solar Ovens. Cook with the power of the sun with your Solavore Sport solar oven. Slow-cook, roast, or bake, the lightweight and durable Solavore is perfect for life on board. Keep the galley cool and save fuel too! Use coupon code Galley2018 for 15% off through September 2018.
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Music: “Slow Down” by Yvette Craig
One of the racing cooks I interviewed back in the 1980’s for the first edition of my book, the Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew said, “If you find a vegetarian in the crew, toss him overboard.” That is something that has definitely changed in the sailing world. I now expect to find a vegetarian among my guests or crew in a 1-to-15 ratio. In fact, I found as the years progressed, Larry and I tended more toward vegetarian-type lunches, with red meat (which once was an expected part of our menu twice a day) only making up three or four meals a week, even onshore. And now I am on passage on board 40-foot Sahula with a sailing partner who is a semi-vegetarian. I have been forced to search out new recipes and I am reminded that, once you are voyaging, providing well-balanced, interesting meals for vegetarian crew does become harder than it is on shore.
If you are not a vegetarian and are faced with unexpected non-flesh-eating daysailing crew, you will usually find that your visitor is used to this situation. He or she will be quite satisfied with the same sandwich you eat, minus the meat, and the same dinner you eat, minus the slices of roast beef. But to satisfy your desire to be a good host, to fill each spot on your visitor’s plate, you can add a small can of drained mushrooms or asparagus, topped with mayonnaise, to the vegetarian plate. Or for sandwiches, you can slice additional fresh vegetables and add them, or spread a layer of spicy chutney, cheese, onion slices, hummus or pickled beets to perk up the meatless sandwiches.
If you know beforehand that vegetarian crew will be sailing with you, ask if they enjoy fish, cheese, or eggs. Very few have diets that exclude all these items. If they do, ask that they bring along a dish they enjoy, one that can be shared with the crew. Otherwise, plan a meal based on casserole-type foods. Prepare one small casserole exactly the same as the main dish, minus the meat. Substitute eggplant (aubergine), extra onions, leeks, or spinach. I was surprised when I once prepared a large meat lasagna for the majority of my guests at dinner on board and then made a smaller, meatless one for our vegetarian crew member. To spice up the meatless lasagna, I added a layer of spinach and a layer of eggplant, topped with spiced feta cheese. The vegetarian lasagna ended up being just as popular with everyone as the meat dish.
For longer passages with a vegetarian on board, discuss menus with the crew beforehand, explaining that you cannot prepare two sets of meals—one for meat eaters and one for meat abstainers. Then plan occasional meals created by the vegetarian. This will add variety to your menu and create a feeling that everyone on board has a special place. At all costs, avoid setting up a pattern of bilateral meals. This can lead to a serious drain on provisions and the cook. I found this when I was working as the cook on a 60-foot shrimp trawler and lobster trapping vessel where half of the crew was North American and half Costa Rican. At first, I offered to make meals to suit the desires of both contingents—the highly meat-oriented North Americans and the vegetable-, rice-, beans-, and fish-oriented Costa Ricans. This was easy while provisions were fresh and before we were busy with trawling and trapping. But it became a problem when both groups began enjoying each other’s favorite foods and expectations of constant dual menus put a lot of pressure on the cook.
If you are vegetarians who plan to cruise to less sophisticated exotic locations and island nations, you’ll have some problems with finding replacements for the provisions you brought from home. Fresh fruit and vegetables—on which you depended for adding variety to your diet (and sufficient vitamins)—become difficult to find in small island nations and in the tropics. Tom Linskey, a well-known dinghy-racing sailor, writer, and vegetarian who sailed the South Pacific in his 28-foot cutter Freelance, said the most difficult part of that cruise was the lack of fresh foods and the problem of finding interesting nuts, grains, and dried replacements when outside the few bigger centers. On the majority of islands, your choice of fresh produce will be limited to cabbage, tomatoes, onions, and potatoes, plus bananas, coconuts, and in season, pineapples. Cheeses are difficult to find (see Day 37, “Long-Distance Cheeses”). Fortunately, many French people prefer a vegetarian-based eating style, so excellent grains, beans, and rice varieties are available in Papeete, New Caledonia, and Réunion in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. The prices are steep, but it is worthwhile overstocking, as these locations may provide your last chances to add variety to your menu. In South America and the Caribbean, again look to French colonies for the best sources of vegetarian staples and treats.
A special word of warning must be added for any vegetarian who is headed towards New Zealand or Australia. Neither of these countries allow the importation of raw seeds, beans or grains (canned or processed are fine). Darren and Melinda Druzilla who cruise on board 37 footer, Mischief learned this on their arrival in Tonga. They had filled their lockers with more than a year’s supply of “health foods” and grains before leaving Hawaii six months previously. After learning about the New Zealand restrictions, Darien let it be known he wanted to sell his beans, rice, whole wheat flours. I was amazed at the response he received – everything he didn’t require for the passage south was sold within one morning, not just to other cruisers bound for other destinations, but to local people hungry for items they rarely saw in their own shops.
Although many island people depend on fresh fish for the majority of the protein in their diets, the mainstay of their meals is either rice or tubers such as yams. So you never need be without potential provisions, even in the most remote areas of the world. But it will pay to have local people introduce you to the recipes they use for the vegetables and grains found in the local shops; you may find some wonderful new ideas. I came to really enjoy the Costa Rican way of eating beans-and-rice after my stint on the trawler. Boiled pinto beans were spiced with onions and garlic and then mixed in equal parts with cooked white rice to form the local substitute for potatoes. Another cruiser told of leaving Brazil with 30 kilos of a special black bean that tasted “10 times better than any other bean in the world.” Beans are a dependable source of protein that can add variety and cut cost for any cruiser, whether vegetarian or meat eater.
In fact, for any cruiser on a budget, I would recommend looking into vegetarian cookbooks and eating styles. These books contain fine fish, casserole, and sandwich recipes, which will help you either cut down on the use of meats or add variety when your only meat supplies have to come from cans. Meat is one of the most expensive food items you will buy, and it is one of the hardest items to keep on board. Without a freezer, it is almost impossible fresh meat for more than the first few days of your passage. Besides, a good vegetarian dish, spiced with the meat you intended for just the two of you, can easily stretch your main course so there is enough to the welcome but unexpected guests who just sailed in and anchored next to you.
So what are some of my favorite new recipes to cater to the semi-vegetarian I now sail with? Crepes filled with mushrooms In cream sauce or with ratatouille, egg foo young made with fresh sprouted mung beans and a touch of tahini, quiches, fritters of all sorts. In fact tonight as we sail across the Coral Sea towards Australia I have used the last of our fresh lettuce to make a tossed salad which I am serving with corn fritters and spicy chutney. As an aside, I have really come to like the rectangular frying pan David uses on board Sahula. It takes up far less room on the stove than a round pan would and has far more flat space on the bottom. That makes it perfect for the fritters I am cooking up.