This post is for those who thought that we could spend all this time at sea without bread. Let me tell you that we could not!
If you already tried to bake bread, you might have experienced that it is a real learning curve, and onboard taught us to let go and trust our fellow salty crew, regardless of the efforts you put in to mix the dough or knead it, as usually the one making the bread isn’t the one who will shape and bake it.
Our breadmaking journey started this year in Den Helder with a sourdough starter given by a generous bakery from Amsterdam and a recipe that has been used onboard in previous years.
Sourdough bread is a real art and is pretty demanding, as you need to feed the sourdough starter, make the dough, knead it, proof it, shape it, bake it and finally enjoy it. To make things a little more spicy and interesting, imagine all this being done in a moving galley, where you have to dive into the bouncing dry store to pick up flour when you can be called at any time on deck for manoeuvers while your hands are dipped in flour, and where the temperature and moisture evolve as we sail along different latitudes.
As we all love to have fresh crispy warm bread for breakfast, the bread-making process is split in between watches to have it ready for 7h30. The dough is thus made from 20 to 00, kneaded and proofed from 00 to 04 and baked from 04 to 08.
We have been experimenting with many different consistencies and shapes, and don’t get it wrong, all bread was always appreciated, however, not all looked like bread. Do not get mistaken, bread making is not a fair game, regardless of the time and energy you put into it!
As a sourdough starter needs to be fed 3 times a day, ours became one of the “babies” we have onboard, got a name and got taken care of by all of us alternatively, big up to those who have taken greater care.
Here is a shortened version of the sourdough starter saga.
Early in our journey, our first sourdough starter had been named Herbert. To supply our bread consumption, the sourdough starter had to get bigger but still fit in the galley. That’s how Herbert got split in two one morning and became respectively Her and Bert.
Eventually, Her got spread all over the galley table by a gentle wave one morning. Scooped straight back in her homepot, she turned out the next day to be more active than Bert! Accidents sometimes make things better than they were before!
However, all stories do not necessarily end well. Unfortunately, our beloved sourdough did not survive the post north Atlantic ocean crossing in our stopover in Martinique where they got left aside a little too long, ending up with respectively an ore-dish and blue-greenish colours on their tops.
Fortunately, as all sailors have to have at least a plan B, we’ve been backing up our sourdough attempts with dry yeast, which turned out to be the easiest, less demanding and best bread results we made so far.
For those how are curious, here is the recipe the Tres Hombres crew (almost) always succeeds to make.
In a bowl, put 2 kg of flour with:
2 Tablespoons of salt for the taste
1/2 Teaspoon of dry yeast for the fluffiness
2 Tablespoons of sugar to feed the yeast
A drop of vinegar to reduce the yeast taste and help fermentation
Mix dry ingredients and add 1 litre of water.
Cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise for 6 to 10 hours depending on which latitude you are
Shape and bake for an hour at 230 degrees. Enjoy! (For nicer results use a Dutch oven!)
Now for the people that understand my surname and know a little about growing up in Holland, there might be some indication of a past spent on the side of one of the many canals.
Leisurely staring at an orange dot bobbing away on a wind rippled surface of a pond trying to catch what is hiding under the lily pads. Or casting a silvery blinker far into the distance of a green/brownish lake to lure out the more aggressive occupants into a temptation to chase.
But alas, naught could be more true.
Not for the lack of trying on both of my Opa’s accounts, who on both sides would buy me and my brother various rods, bamboo first and eventually a fancy red one with a little black reel (which I’m sure is still lying around ready to be used on my parents loft) and various other shiny hooks and lures to tease me and my brother to sit beside them on a little stool along the canal outside their houses, willing the fish to bite the freshly dug up worms from the garden.
But I guess the wanderlust and need to move was already very much present and the ability to sit still for so long while nothing happening was not something that was to be.
Now that it is no longer an opportunity to be able to do with either Opa’s I wish I had spent more time doing so or could do again, even if it’s for just one last time.
Although to be honest I’m not sure how long I would be able to just sit there now either but at least this time I could bring a bottle of rum and some tall tales of adventure myself.
So despite my surname and Opa effort, not a Visser… well yes a Visser but not a visser (English translation: Fisherman)
Today I pulled in the BIGGEST fish I have ever caught! A Mahe Mahe, also known as Dorado. It was like the length of my lower arm, maybe bigger but at the time of this writing I don’t have the pictures and I don’t want to exaggerate…. but it was gargantuan!
For a while now I have really enjoyed the idea of providing food by hunting or gathering but never really pursued the idea because well… I lived in London most of my adult life… (Unless shopping around Green Lanes counts, but I guess that’s a different style of surviving)
And when I was on my Long distance hiking escapades I didn’t have time to stop, hunt and gather as Winter is Coming and I really needed to do the miles, also I took a lesson from Alexander Super-tramp and didn’t eat the berries!
But ever since I started sailing again I have been fulfilling my providing needs and am often one of the first to hang the fishing lines, sometimes to no avail like the beginning of this year on our way around the Caribbean and back (three months… no fish) and another time the Cook comes out to tell me “please stop” because he doesn’t know what dish to put Mackerel in any more (Good times with Jeroen on the Nordlys :))
Sometimes the fish are biting, only to discover they’re all female with eggs in their bellies. And I believe that it’s a ridiculous notion to eat that what is busy providing future “food” so we then decided to hold of the fishing for the coming weeks and let nature do its thing. (Ironically we were in between two big trawlers obliviously reaping the sea)
And now today was the first big fish of this Atlantic round, and hopefully the first of a few cause they are super tasty.
To catch and eat what you caught is something I consider very special to do here in our little world among the waves, something very pure and authentic to the life that we are living here.
To me it’s a gift given to us by the sea, a sacrifice that is provided to give us an experience and nourishment. An opportunity to really know what we eat, by catching, say thanks, killing, preparing and cooking. Instead of buying everything in such a shape you need a drawing on the package to figure out what it was when it was alive.
I am no Vegetarian or Vegan or Carnivore or whatever label people need to feel better about what they put in their body.
I believe personally that any eating behaviour with a name is ignoring the problem and We just simply eat too much and we want to eat everything whenever and wherever and what we have in the world is not big enough to provide it for us so we destroy to make more room to provide so we can eat that too.
Now the world before we wanted more and more was pretty good in providing everything by herself for us to enjoy, the only thing being was that we simply sometimes had to wait for it or just had less of it.
And this so much includes the fishing industry, with their big nets coughing the sea floor and killing everything unfortunate to be caught or with their hundreds of long lines that steal so many fish and take the lives of so many sea birds along with them. Just so that we can eat sushi in the desert all year round (other examples available)
Not to mention taking away the fish from the fishing men and women that provide for their community or their families on a small scale.
And this is also something that ties in to the message of FairTransport and the Tres Hombres that we are trying to convey to the people we get in contact with and to our crew members that come and join us on these voyages.
We only have so much and when it’s gone it’s gone, there are only so many chances to buy food before the crossing. So we take what is given and we do with what we have.
And a fresh fish on a diet of mainly (delicious) organic long levity vegetables is nothing but a pure delight.
Now I understand that we can’t all go and provide this way and we are blessed with a luxury of beautiful foods and things able to be bought on a fancy.
But maybe we can all just start by looking at the labels, where did it come from, how was it caught, what was the quality of its life before it became dinner so that we become more aware of what we do and eat.
As the saying goes, you are what you eat. So let’s try to be the free things and the not chemically induced things, the not caught by the million things and the not having to destroy other things to provide this one thing. Let’s all aim to be those things.
So today we eat fish and tomorrow we won’t and we’ll wait until it is given again because sea provides when she wants to those that are only taking what is given and we’ll wait patiently until the next time.
1st Mate Tres Hombres
On route to La Palma