‘Cooked brick; ate with peanut butter’

April 2010

By Dodge Morgan

I can safely state that the one activity every human being knows how to do is to eat, although answers to the eating how-to and why questions show a very wide gastronomical and attitudinal variety. Some live to eat and some eat to live.

I am not an eater, and, as logic suggests, I am certainly not a cooker. I even tend to object having to lose the time to eat. This makes me an excellent person to feed because I will eat damned near anything just to get it over with. It also helps make me a comical menace solo on a boat.

I am constantly amazed by so many people to whom eating is their cause célèbre (that is French, and French is the prevailing language of cooks isn’t it); eating and cooking are the major life events for these people, the last meal, the next meal, the best eating-out places, where special foodstuffs are available, the magic of cooking utensils, and recipes “ad nausea” (pun intended).

These feed and food aficionados can also be found to perform on small boats, and though the tasks have the downside of being seriously more cumbersome, they have the upside that the established standards of success are far more forgiving. A food nut can complicate even the most basic galley experience, but onboard eating tends to fall to simple dishes such as peanut butter on crackers, Dinty Moore, and granola bars, hardly presenting gastronomical challenges or opportunities.

I have never been inclined to cook if there was anyone else on board with me. But I have done considerable ocean miles alone while never finding another way of staying alive aside from eating. Here are some of my experiences.

For my solo, nonstop circumnavigation, others loaded 1,610 pounds of things to eat and drink on American Promise. After five months at sea, I returned to my departing port with so much food remaining that if the South had it in the great war-between-the-states, the rebels would have won. The boat had no refrigeration, but it did have a three-burner propane stove.

Years earlier, I had been taught to bake fresh bread by a woman crewing a charter vessel. She called her recipe “no knead bread,” and done by me, “knead” often became “need,” but it was astoundingly simple, made up of flour, seawater, some grease of any kind like butter and powdered yeast. The ingredients are piled together in bowl, mixed aggressively, and set in a warm place, like on top of a running generator, to grow double in size. Then it’s punched flat, set to rise again, and flopped into a pressure cooker and on to a low-flame burner, with the pressure knob off, to cook about an hour.

Here is a note in my log: “Cooked bread today. Screw it, cooked brick today. Ate some with peanut butter. The eating part was the hardest. The loaf was brown and brick-sized and could have made suitable building material for the nether orifice of the Sphinx.”

Another culinary experiment I tried was given to me by Richard Konkolski, the Czech solo sailor who defected during a round-the-world race in 1982. Richard suggested a one-pot meal composed of a combination of any and all things edible in a large pot. The idea is to eat from this ever-cooking mass and then replace what has been taken with a bulk of fresh material. I cannot recall the ingredients I tossed in, but do remember that the mess became the color of mouse hair and totally without any identifiable taste in a week.

I returned to civilization after 150 days, one hour and seven minutes of sailing with no cook at all and a body weight almost exactly that of when I departed. I have avoided cooking for myself since.

Dodge and wife Mary Beth are cruising tropical waters aboard Osprey, their Nova Scotia-built Monk 36 trawler.