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Walvis Ridge MV1203 Expedition

Daily Report 7 -- Wednesday, 28 March 2012 -- How to feed 39 People for 7 Weeks


How to feed 39 People for 7 Weeks

The cruise is nearly over and we are just days from port. I would like to take this opportunity to tell the story of two of the unsung heroes of this trip: the cooks. There are two cooks onboard the R/V Melville (Jeremy Fox and Ahsha Staiger), whose job it is to prepare three meals a day for the 39 people on the ship, all of whom have different tastes and dietary requirements. The cooks bake fresh bread almost every day, constantly restock the chips and chocolate bars, prepare cake, cookies and pies for dessert, and all of this on a surface that slowly rolls up to 10 degrees from side to side every few seconds. Jeremy and Ahsha took a few minutes to tell us about all of the work that goes into planning and preparing meals at sea, where the nearest grocery store is a four-day sail away.

First of all, many of you may be wondering what happens if the ship runs out of food. This is very unlikely to happen because there are quite a lot of dried and frozen stores onboard, more than enough for even a seven-week voyage. After the ship comes out of the shipyard following its yearly maintenance period, it is stocked with canned, dried and bottled foods. Prior to each cruise, the cook places a bulk order with a shipping agent. Based on experience, the cook estimates the number of kilograms of meat, fruit and vegetables needed for each person and places the order accordingly.

There are three main storage areas for food on the ship. There is a large storeroom for dry goods, such as canned beans, salad sauces, spices, and fruit juice cartons. There is a refrigerated area for any fresh produce, such as apples, onions and carrots. There is another refrigerated area for bread, dairy products, and even products like rice, which may have weevils (a type of beetle) in it if purchased in a country where food is sold with minimal cleaning. Then there is the freezer room, where meat, vegetables and meal leftovers are stored. There is an emergency button near the door, in case somebody accidentally gets locked into the room!

The cooks prepare three meals a day. Breakfast usually consists of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, muffins, and one of either pancakes, french toast, or waffles. Lunch and dinner are a mix of meat, vegetables and either potatoes, rice, pasta or bread. There is always a dessert that is often so good that it is gone by midnight, and the morning watch coming on shift at 1 am must put in a special request to have some saved for them!

Meals are planned on a day-to-day basis, depending on what leftovers are available and what produce needs to be eaten before it goes bad. The cooks were quite willing to take special requests and even produced elaborate birthday cakes for the five people who happened to have birthdays during the cruise. Special mention should be made of the chocolate muffins with chocolate chips, which disappeared within minutes of being unveiled, and of the over-indulgent Elvis Cake (chocolate, peanut butter, and banana).

Most normal people, who are used to cooking for themselves or their families probably do not have a sense of how much food 39 people might consume. To give you a feel for the scale of this undertaking, and the Herculean effort expended by the cooks to organize it all, here is an estimate of the total amount of food consumed during the trip:

Vegetables - 1000 kg (2205 lbs)

Fruit - 1000 kg (2205 lbs)

Milk - 500 L (132 gallons)

Eggs - 3000

Meat and Seafood - 1350 kg (2976 lbs)

Flour - 150 kg (331 lbs)

Sugar - 75 kg (165 lbs)

Candy Bars (Mars, Snickers, KitKat) - 750

Ice Cream Bars (King Kone, Heaven Bar, Magnum) - 480

Bags of Potato Chips (e.g. Thai Sweet Chili) - 60

Cans of Pringles Chips - 50

Coffee - 40 kg (88 lbs)

Soda - 350 L (92.5 gallons)

At the moment there are only 75 kg of vegetables, 60 dozen eggs, and 6 kg of flour left. There is no more coffee, but still half a freezer full of ice cream bars. If all else fails, there is still a shelf full of cereal and at least 8 large tins of powdered milk to help us get through the next few days.

Susan Schnur