Eat It 'N' Beat It - Cooking for 50 on RV Melville!
April 22, 2000
By Dan Engelbrecht
Imagine stocking your kitchen with everything your
family needs for 48 days -- and then try doing it for 50 people!
That’s a challenge -- especially with the limited storage
space (called stowage) and refrigeration on board. There is never
any wasted space; we pack supplies into every inch! After we load
the ship at the beginning of each expedition, it can be quite difficult
to find what you need. So, for the first week, meals tend to be
made of whatever is easiest to get to!
Working as a Marine Cook is one of the most challenging
jobs on board an oceanographic research vessel. Up at 5:30 every
morning and on the go until 6 in the evening, the Cooks’ day
is one of the longest compared to other positions on the ship (except
for the Chief Scientist, of course!). The cooks that are best at
the job tend to be a little clairvoyant! They use their psychic
abilities every day, deciding what to make that will keep everyone
happy. The ship’s schedule of watch standing, and the spirits
of everyone on board, revolve around meals. Not only do meals have
to be on time, but they also have to be yummy! This requires that
the Cook be creative and serve meals on time -- 3 times a day,
everyday. When it is mealtime, you had better be ready! Sore necks
are a constant bother to us because we are constantly looking up
at the clock to check the time! When the meals are over, the scientists
and crew are expected to leave quickly so that clean-up can begin.
We have a saying here in the galley -- “Eat it ’n’ Beat
it”. I think I just like saying it!
Cooking is only about 60% of the job. From sweeping
and mopping the mess hall and galley, to stocking coffee, sugar,
and ice cream bars, the Marine Cook has plenty to do while at sea.
But one of the most interesting challenges to a Marine Cook is
shopping while visiting foreign ports. What you want and what you
get are usually two different things! You learn to become multilingual
as time goes on. Most of us don’t know how to say “Where
is the post office?” in another language, but we can ask “How
much for the cucumbers?” Even more fun is trying to figure
out what’s inside a foreign-labeled package after it’s
been stowed awhile. You think you’re opening a can of tomato
sauce -- and you find that it’s really apple sauce! Now,
instead of having “Linguini with Marinara” for dinner,
you’re having “Linguini ala Manzana.” Very creative,
On board the RV Melville,
we try hard to produce balanced meals to keep the scientists
and crew healthy. Today, Marine Cooks are faced with an increase
in “vegetarianism” among the
scientific parties that come on board. Long gone are the days of “meat
and potatoes”; now, it’s “tofu and sprouts”.
What a difference a generation makes! However, we have a solution
-- it’s called “The Salad Bar”. If you don’t
want the prime rib and crab legs, you can help yourself to one
of many vegetable salads. Why someone wouldn’t want prime
rib and crab legs is beyond me!
During each expedition, the amounts of various food items that
we use are pretty enormous! Here are just a few items and the amounts
that will be consumed completely during this 48 day, 50 person
Eggs 360 dozen (that’s
Juices 240 gallons
Milk 144 gallons
Flour 360 lbs.
Sugar 220 lbs.
Coffee 192 lbs.
Rice 150 lbs.
Lettuce 288 heads
Potatoes 650 lbs.
Ice Cream Bars 1152 (Wow!)
Keep in mind that these are
just 10 of over 850 that we use, and that have to be ordered
again when stock is low. So how big is your grocery list when
you go shopping? Because we spend lots of money on groceries,
we have to “buy smart”. For example,
buying pineapples in Hawaii is smart; buying coconuts in Alaska
is not! Whatever port the Melville is in, for the Marine Cook: “It’s
not just a job...it's an adventure!”