Friday, January 16, 2015

Crew Galley

Official Disclaimer:  these are not my muffins.  They are gluten-free peanut butter and chocolate chip muffins, baked by my friend Tracey.  And they are delicious.  

I am not much of a cook.  (Ask me sometime about the 'pickle soup' debacle.)  Oh, I know enough to get by.  I did successfully feed myself for several years before I came to live on this beautiful ship with its steady and sustaining 12-week menu, but I definitely fall into the category of single adult who can be counted on to bring the chips and salsa to pretty much every potluck dinner.  Sometimes I branch out and bring bean dip instead.

My lack of affinity for all things culinary notwithstanding, I want to tell you about one of my very favorite places on the Africa Mercy:  the Crew Galley.  (By the way, "galley" is sailor-speak for "kitchen."  Just so you know.)

All of our official meals are cooked by crew members who have been specially trained to handle massive amounts of food in a real and entirely legit Galley.  I have never been there, but I imagine that it is a miraculous place (making pancakes for a crew of 400 qualifies as a true miracle as far as I'm concerned).  Those of us who like to dabble are allowed to cook things in our own little specially set-aside kitchen, affectionately known as the Crew Galley.  It is a beautiful place.

The kitchen, I think, is really the heart of any house.  You can learn more about a family from half an hour in the kitchen than you could from a whole evening in the living room.  People relax when they cook.  It's warm.  It smells good, and if the conversation slows you've still got something useful to do.  Well, the same is true of our Crew Galley, only our 'family' is a little unusual.  On any given Saturday, you'll find people from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas all cooking their favorite recipes, the ones that remind them of home.  A warm cloud of curry flavored air clashes with the scent of baking brownies and cooling pancakes, all tinged with the metallic essence of the ever-present boiling fish sauce.  Overlapping conversations blend with the counterpoint of Garth Brooks and West African gospel songs, all over the reassuring clatter of pots, pans, oven doors, whisks, blenders, knives, and plastic measuring cups.  People hover around ovens and sinks like bees performing a complicated dance.  I don't have to be part of it, really, but peeking in occasionally to watch makes me feel all contented and steady inside.  I just know that things are going to be okay. If you're ever in the neighborhood, you really ought to stop by and spend a minute or two in our Crew Galley yourself.  It's well worth the time.

The best part?  Sometimes they let you taste the muffins.