Bread! At Sea!

Reader Contribution by Sue Van Slooten
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It is summer, and for a very brief window of time, the lakes, waterways and inland seas of Canada are ice-free. Seriously though, we are more ice-free than ever. During this brief respite from ice and snow, it is not atypical for the denizens of the North to take to their boats, kayaks, canoes, or as they say, whatever floats your boat. A recent addition to our flotilla as of last year was a 26′ Tanzer sailboat. Uh oh. I’m the only one in the family who doesn’t know how to sail (I hear there is great shame in having to admit to a power boat background). I was not initially even welcomed aboard. Except to cook. (Apparently they figured, correctly, that I could handle the galley.) At any rate, husband took his training at the NY Sailing School years ago, and son has tall ship experience. I was a mere landlubber. This year, I decided to rectify this shortcoming, and enrolled in a Canadian Yachting Club’s Basic Keelboat Cruising course, out of Kingston, ON. What does this have to do with bread? I’m getting to that.

The preparations to get ready involved reading an entire book on sailing (our well written textbook), and I thankfully already had that strangely Canadian beast called the Pleasure Boat Operator’s Card, or PCOC, and pronounced, peacock. At least in our house. As my course is what they call a live aboard, meaning you actually live on the boat for six days and five nights, one is partly responsible for the meals consumed during the week. The captain prepares one dinner. In my menu preparation, in addition to pasta with sauce, sausage and multi-coloured peppers, my thoughts naturally turned to bread. Thoughts about breakfast turned to bread. I guess I just naturally, or nautically in this case, think about bread. Turns out I’m not alone, because in mentioning homemade bread to our captain via email, the thought almost immediately came back, “Yay, real bread would be great! No plastic bread!” Hmmm…. Hadn’t heard it called that before, but OK. I was also assured the bread would stay fresh forever (?) because of the humid conditions on board. Mold was mentioned, but not a serious problem apparently.

The bread (this is almost like choosing a fine wine) selected for the pasta dinner was the venerable Rosemary Olive Oil Sourdough Loaf, from my previous blog, light on the rosemary. Our course started on Sunday, and my dinner was the first up. Everything was precooked in order to streamline everything as much as possible. Pasta was boiled at the last minute. The pasta, sauce and all was well received, but when the bread came out, it was every man (or woman) for themselves. First, it was, “Is this sourdough?” Then all I kept hearing was, “Sourdough!” It was devoured. No worry about mold here. Then came the questions about how to make it, etc.

Later in the week, it was Honey Whole Wheat Walnut yeast bread for breakfast with soft cream cheese. Large chunks were sliced off and smeared with the cream cheese. It was very nice bread, but didn’t have the cache of the sourdough. They wanted more sourdough. Alas, none was to be had. I underestimate the power of the sourdough. The crust, the flavor, the inner chewiness, all so irresistible. I suppose that sourdough could easily give that old sailor’s standby, hardtack, a beautiful run for the money, it being durable bread that could last at least for a few days or a week before becoming moldy. No wonder sailors love bread. Oh, and I passed the course with flying colours. The grading was totally fair, no bread influence whatsoever.

Photo Credit: 26 Foot Tanzer by Bob Van Slooten