After three months off, it’s time to head back to work. The ship is in Honolulu where I’ll meet her. We’ll have a few days in port before a 5-day trip, then a 47-day trip. I don’t know how many people will be on board for either of them yet, but the trips will likely be fairly full, 40 or more people. The crew has 20, and we can accommodate up to 29 scientists.
As soon as I arrive on Monday, I’ll start working on the order for the long trip. Hopefully the cook I’m relieving will have an inventory ready for me. Ordering food for more than 40 people for 47 days is part knowing, part intuition and part luck. The two biggest challenges I face are the kinds of food each group will like, and what shape the produce is in.
Each crew is different in what they eat. Some people like dairy, some are vegetarians. Our crew and clients are Russian, French, German and Japanese. Vietnamese, Southern or Northern United States, West Coast and East Coast. And Hawai’ian States. Some groups eat loads of salad, others are more meat and potatoes. Always there is a mixture of competing taste buds. How to order? One word: Lots. The University has a list of requirements to have on board, but I don’t think I’d have a job for very long if I cooked by subsistence. Food is the only real diversity client and crew can count on at sea, so it’s important to make the most of each meal. I’ll post the order when it’s complete, but the overall categories are pantry items such as canned foods and grains, refrigerated items, frozen items, and cleaning items. At some point, I’ll post an ordering check list that has everything I order on it, so it can be used as an inventory sheet or an order sheet.
The biggest question is what shape the produce will be in. Our last trip, we had some terrific lettuce, but we also had a couple of cases of lettuce that looked okay from the outside, but was rotting on the inside. We didn’t catch it until we were two days out at sea and took the lettuce out to prepare it for the long trip. We also need to order significantly more than we’ll use because the longer we’re at sea, the more we need to throw away to serve palatable fresh food. On one trip, we were able to serve lettuce for 43 days. This coming trip, I have a couple of experiments I’ll try for keeping fresh produce fresher, longer. Updates to come in tips and tricks.
There are certainly other challenges, and some of them we’ll live together as I post more musings over the next months. Until next week, fair winds.