Margo Dill book review: Cookbook for boaters works for others, too

Carolyn Shearlock and Jan Irons from Neoga spend almost as much time on a sailboat as they have on shore. Because of their experiences, they've had to learn to cook meals onboard, where a grocery store is not just around the corner, it's harder to keep food fresh, and the kitchen is, of course, quite a bit smaller.

That's how "The Boat Galley Cookbook" came to be. In the introduction, they write, "We want to give you the information you need for success — information we both wish we'd had when we began cruising."

This book is much more than just a cookbook full of easy recipes to make on board a boat. It's more like a "how-to," and it's comprehensive.

In a news release that accompanies the book, Shearlock and Irons included a quote from one reviewer that said this book is appropriate for more than just people trying to cook in the small space of a boat; it's also for people living in a tiny New York City apartment, a couple who loves to travel via RV or even someone staying in a small cottage.

The authors start out explaining how boat cooking is different — probably if you are picking up this book, you've figured that out; but still, this book is good for beginners through advanced sailors — and that there's something for everyone.

For beginners, they go into what to put in your boat galley, if you are lucky enough to have the choice; grocery shopping in other countries; and safe ways to store your food.

For people who have been sailing and cooking for a while, they have a chapter on substitutions, which is a brilliant idea. What do you do when you are in the middle of making a recipe in the middle of the ocean and you are out of a key ingredient? Grab "The Boat Galley Cookbook" and read through this chapter.

(This could also be helpful for anybody who doesn't like to go to the store when out of an ingredient!)

The authors write, "If you don't expect the finished dish to taste exactly the same as the original, you're less likely to be disappointed. ... Think about the role of the ingredient in the dish and what the substitution will do to the flavor, texture, color, cooking time, and other variables."

Some suggestions they make in this chapter are instead of using bread crumbs, you could crumble a slice of bread or use cracker crumbs, or instead of vinegar, try lemon juice or wine (not sweet).

The recipes are for everyone, and the authors even include a list of meal ideas for lunch, hot weather and one-pot options. The 800 recipes cover all aspects of a meal — there are chapters on beverages, breakfast, appetizers, salads, soups, pasta, vegetables, sauces and gravy, seafood, meat, grilling, desserts and even holiday fare.

In the preface, the authors share a cooking "horror" story from their early years of sailing. They were excited to be on a charter sailboat together with their husbands. When they got ready to eat that night, they found out that it's "not a good idea to dump all the food into the refrigerator, pour 20 pounds of ice over it, and then run the engine-driven refrigeration for an hour."

They said everything froze into a solid block of ice, and it took an hour to chop out their "first night celebration steaks." Sounds appetizing, huh?

If you cook in a small space where you really must plan your ingredients in advance (and how to store them), then this cookbook will be extremely helpful to you.

It's easy to read and full of great ideas and tasty recipes.

Margo L. Dill is the author of "Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg," a middle-grade historical fiction novel. She often reviews books as a columnist for "WOW! Women On Writing" e-zine and her blog, "Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them" (http://margodill.com/blog/). She lives in St. Louis with her family.

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