Captain's Log

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If You Are What You Eat, We’re Caribbean!

Donald Church, cook on the Picton Castle, is from Grenada. He worked as chef on eight cruise ships over a 20-year period. We met him through the Captain’s mutual friends when we were looking to hire a cook in the beginning of January while the ship was in Grenada. Having a cook from the Caribbean is a huge benefit for us for several reasons. Donald knows the local ingredients and how to use them to make tasty dishes. Not only does he know what to do with foods like soursop, plantain, sweet potato, and coconuts, he also uses lots of different spices to flavour his dishes. He knows the appropriate price to pay for fruit and veggies in the markets, and if the price is too high he can bargain or walk away, knowing that he’ll get the same thing for a better price elsewhere. He still talks about the outrageous price of coconuts in Antigua, $5 EC for one there and $1 EC almost anywhere else in the Caribbean. EC is Eastern Caribbean currency, which is about $2.50 to $1 Canadian.

Donald has developed a few signature dishes—things he makes often and well. He prefers to cook chicken and fish over beef or other red meats. Donald’s fried chicken is legendary amongst the crew, as are the potato wedges he often makes to go with it. Rice and peas are a Caribbean staple, as is cabbage salad. Plantain can be fried, baked or boiled (in the skin). Macaroni and cheese, which Donald calls “macaroni pie,” is often served for lunch. He almost always cuts up fruit to serve with breakfast, including grapefruit, oranges, soursop, watermelon, mangoes, papaya or whatever else we have at the time. Nadja showed him how to make crepes, which he often does along with oatmeal or cornmeal porridge.

Every meal has a great variety of things to eat. The long counters on top of the veggie lockers on the aloha deck are brimming with bowls and pans of different things; there’s hardly enough space for it all. Meals on the Picton Castle are served buffet style, starting with cutlery and plates or bowls (most people choose bowls, especially on swelly days at sea, so they can keep their meal from sliding off), then all the different dishes that make up the meal with serving spoons so we can choose what we want and serve ourselves. The scullery is full of a variety of condiments, everything from hot sauce to chutney, salt and pepper to salad dressing—anything someone could possibly want to add to their food. Condiments appropriate for the meal go at the end of the buffet line. It’s always interesting to see how people combine what’s offered at each meal, and it’s rare for two bowls or plates to look the same.

To give you an example of what the crew eats, here’s what was served today:

  • orange wedges
  • grapefruit wedges
  • watermelon slices
  • crepes
  • hard boiled eggs
  • garlic toast (a bit unconventional, but really tasty)
  • macaroni pie
  • mixed beans
  • leftover cabbage salad with pickles
  • leftover couscous
  • canned peaches
  • rice and black beans
  • mixed beans with tomato and onion
  • boiled plantains in the skin
  • plantain cake with raisins
  • fruit cocktail
  • leftover macaroni pie
  • leftover cabbage salad
  • leftover couscous

And we may see some awesome fried chicken…

And Mr. church is a great shipmate to boot!

Donald in the scullery
Donald negotiates in the market
macaroni pie, boiled plantain, and plantain cake

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