Position: 24°10’20.3″N 76°26’38.1″W
Periodically people ask us what we do for food on Aleta. The short answer is we do much the same as we do at home, we shop, we store, we cook, we eat. It’s a relatively simple process that’s stood the test of time. That said, this post isn’t one of the thousands that recount recipes by and for cruisers. You know, fun dishes from the high seas that you can make at home. Rather it’s an exploration of what’s the same and what’s different about feeding ourselves on board compared with life on land.
To be clear, we have yet to spend more than an overnight at sea, or stopped in places far, far away from services like shopping and restaurants for more than a couple of days. Nonetheless, when we shop, we ‘provision’ for a couple of weeks. Fresh veg lasts through the first week, tops, fruit can go longer.
Eggs meet their sell-by date if they’re kept chilled. Fresh milk isn’t really a thing in the Bahamas, it’s a luxury. So much so it’s secreted away in the furthest reaches of the dairy department under armed guard. More commonly we find boxed milk, that euro-ultra-heat treated long life formula that seems so popular everywhere else in the world except the United States. Cheese in the form of industrial orange cheddar blocks is easy to locate. It tastes like that sounds. Anything more exotic, like brie, is expensive, but then it comes all the way from France, along with the butter.
Our choices are guided more by what we find. Staples are abundant, rice, beans, flour, sugar, are reasonably cheap. Beyond that, it depends, quite literally, on what the boat brings in. Need Olay face cleaning pads? Buy them if you see them, it might be weeks before they come in again.
Chicken is readily available in bulk packaging that spends weeks at the bottom of our freezer. Fish is sold on the docks or distributed by a guy named Denzel driving around in his golf cart negotiating prices with the tourists. In villages, booze is sold next to the candy bars, while in larger towns there are separate liquor stores. In Staniel Cay there’s a brilliant laundromat/bar combination. Goodbye blue Monday, hello Sands Pink!
Prices vary wildly. Mainstream things cost about 20% more, while a box of raisins will run you 3-4 times what you’d pay back home. It’s still vastly less expensive than eating out, where any restaurant is going to cost $50 on up per person. Roadside shacks aren’t much less, but their quality can be outstanding. Note: if you do eat out, almost everything is fried, and if you can get a vegetable it’s usually Bird’s Eye’s frozen mix, boiled until soggy and served lukewarm.
And before you ask, we share the cooking. Chef duty depends on who’s got more energy or feeling more creative. With water at a premium we’ve started mastering one pan casseroles. Boil the rice, set it aside, take the same pan and add a little olive oil, sauté onions, mushrooms, garlic, add a couple of pieces of chicken and cook until done. Throw in some spinach or kale, a can of tomatoes at the last minute, serve on previously cooked rice. Dang it! That was a recipe, wasn’t it?
So what’s really different? Not all that much. We shop less frequently, have learned to bake bread, and as long as that boxed milk is really cold you can almost enjoy it on your cornflakes in the morning.