more from the cook on the industrial fishing boat

Quite a few of you were captivated by a letter that I reprinted here last week. The letter was from a man named Dan, a cook aboard an enormous industrial fishing vessel somewhere in the cold waters of the Northern Pacific. Well, I wrote back to Dan, told him of your interest and asked for more. I even suggested that he could, if he wanted to, send me the daily menu for a week, so that I could post it here. Following is what I hope to be first installment in a series:

Well, today was another long and greasy day off the coast of Southern Oregon. I had it easy for lunch. I also had it easy for making the soup. Yesterday, I thought it was Friday; so I made clam chowder. It can be a process if you want to use as many fresh ingredients as you can have on a boat. I was very pleased with my soup, until I found out it was Thursday. Fortunately, I was making tacos and other Mexican goodies. No, clam chowder doesnt really go good with Mexican food; but menudo does, of which weve got plenty of cases of Juanitas brand menudito menudo below deck. That stuff heats up really easy and I dont have to add anything. So, I just heat-n-served it. Whew. I just cooled off the chowder for today. Great. Lunch was really easy too. We have some kids from Wisconsin working on the boat. A few days ago, one of them asked if I could make grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch. Well, today I did; along with macaroni and cheese. I know it sounds cheap, and not too labor intensive; but hey, I need to have easy days now and then. Shit, I even gave them corn dogs. Everybody seemed happy and I had nary a sandwich left. Even the Norwegians threw down with the tomato soup! They like to have hard-boiled eggs in their tomato soup. Its not bad really.

After lunch, I cleaned up and scrubbed the floor (like I do everyday), then I went to take a twenty-minute nap. I have to bring a kitchen timer with me, or else I could sleep all the way through. Then I prepare an afternoon deli with some sort of salad. So, it was the usual cold cuts, sliced cheeses, and lettuce, tomato and onion slices. The salad was a macaroni salad. I suppose you saw that one coming though. Then I went straight into dinner production. Tonight, we had roast pork loins, roasted legs of lamb, rosemary potatoes, rice pilaf, and peas and carrots. I made gravies with the drippings from the pork and lamb. We have to have something for the Muslims to eat. I like being able to do that for them. They appreciate it too. This is not uncommon. Theres about a dozen boats out here doing the same thing as we are, and Im sure they all have Muslim crew members. Some of these guys come from as far away as Ghana, and Kenya and Nigeria. When the seasons over, they fly home to their families. I dont know how they can do it. I hear its like a 26-hour flight! Okay, so I got off the subject a little bit. Roasting is fun too. You just season the meats the way you want. Sear them if you have time, and throw them in the oven and forget about them for a while. You just have to remember to pull them from the ovens at the right temperature. Weve got probe thermometers rolling around in almost every drawer in the galleylike pens. So, anyway, I was feeling pretty greasy.

After dinner, I cleaned up again, and the night cook started. We talked for a while and worked on our own projects; like me getting the fuck out of the galley, but making sure its clean and ready for the night cook. He does the same thing for me in the morning. We help each other out when ever we can. If either he or I needs help, we can wake each other up if we really have to. We dont, but we know we can if we absolutely have to. I was wearing clogs all day. I bought them in Oakland. I think I bought a size too big because my feet, ankles and legs are sore in a funny sort of way. Fortunately, I am very particular about the comfort of my feet since I stand on them all day long, so I have an alternate pair of work shoes. I changed my foot gear for the last few hours of work. Well, anyway, my body is sore in general. Im sure its because Ive started going up to the officers lounge to use the treadmill for twenty minutes a day. Well, the treadmill is great and all, but its kind of difficult to walk on when the boat lists back and forth so much (either from rough seas, or hauling back huge nets filled with fish). I want to go back up there again tonight, but Im hesitant. One; because Im tired, and Id rather go to sleep, and Two; because Im really sore. I know that when I go up there, either one of the observers will get off shift and want to go up there to read or something, or one of the deckhands with a sense of humor not much unlike a high school jock who doesnt know any better will try to stun me by sneaking up behind me and yelling something like BOO! or HEY! Dont you know how to use one of those things? That would make me jump as Im walking at a nice 4 mph clip and mess up my cadence just long enough to send me flying off the back of the thing (its already happened). If all goes well, I just huff away on the thing, trying to walk in a straight line, but in reality I know Im walking like a drunken idiot trying to find the bathroomor that one Swiss lady who just barely made it across the finish line during the 84 LA Olympics Womens marathon. I could try yoga on the bow. Its near midnight and foggy outside. Im sure nobody will see me out there. I just wish I knew yoga.

Id like to thank Dan for 1) taking the time to read from the wheelhouse of the ship, out in the middle of the ocean, and 2) for taking the time to write about his life onboard the ship for the rest of us Not to get too philosophical about it, but there really is this disconnect between the lives most of us lead and the food we consume. I personally like Dans stories because they remind me of the process that delivers frozen fish fillets to my local Long John Silvers Seafood Shoppe. It’s something that I should spend more time thinking about, but, as with millions of other things, theres just no time. (I could go on for hours about this, but there are other rants that have been waiting in line for hours.)

Do you have an interesting job? Did you have an especially interesting day? Do you think that the readers of would like to know about it? If so, sent me a letter and I might just post it here.

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