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July 21, 02
Eating in Paradise: Now We Know What Jimmy Buffet Meant About the Cheeseburger

It seems the past week all I can think about is getting a hold of a cheeseburger. I'm not sure why- I didn't eat them often at home. If you think a Double-Double In-n-Out Burger is good on a road trip… imagine devouring one in paradise when there's none to be found.

We assumed that here in this lush, tropical paradise, most of our diet would consist of fresh fruit (such as mangoes, bananas, and coconuts for instance), and fresh fish that we'd either catch ourselves or buy at the local markets. Boy were we wrong! Even on large islands such as Saint Maarten or Martinique, the supermarkets are a far cry from those at home.

What little produce that's available is often already going bad. You can count on finding potatoes (both Idaho type and sweet), onions, and garlic. When you're lucky, you'll perhaps find some tomato, bell pepper and a few apples. Now that we're getting more into the swing of things, I'm beginning to recognize plantains, as well as calalloo, breadfruit, and pumpkin (but am still working on how to properly cook it).

Fresh meat doesn't seem to really exist where we've been traveling so far, and if we don't catch a fish, it seems to be nearly impossible to find them in the markets. Wait correction. You can find fish: if you like it smoked or salted. We've found we're usually safe buying frozen chicken or goat. At first we found this quite peculiar, but when we stopped to consider that nearly every island is teeming with goat and chicken everywhere you look, it seems there is ample supply of fresh replacements. We do see an occasional cow now and then, but they're usually so skinny, it's no wonder that the beef we've had is quite different from what we're used to at home. Thus, the only time we eat it, is when we happen upon some frozen ground beef every few islands. With cheese and gobs of hot sauce, it still couldn't even come close to the tried and true Double-Double a run for it's money.

The other night we were having dinner over at True Blue's place and the conversation turned to what foods we just didn't think we could do without while cruising: cheese, crackers, salami, rice, and (of course) hot sauce. Having said that, we also couldn't do without staples such as flour, eggs, butter (we found a delicious canned variety from New Zealand), and UHT milk (good only to use for cooking, still can't drink it straight). Back in California, if I went through a pound or two of flour a year, I'd be surprised, but on the boat, I often hand-make tortillas and nearly all of our bread since both are hard to find and spoil almost overnight in a marine environment.

It's become a game for us, this eating on the boat thing. We've developed a routine whereby we usually visit a market or two on each island when we arrive. We leave our notions of what we'd like to eat behind, and instead buy whatever's available or fresh, and concoct some way of whipping it-up into dinner. If we don't like the offering at one, and the island or anchorage is populated enough to have (dare I say it!) two markets, we'll visit the other. If we still turn up empty handed, then we go back to Force Five for "stir-fried rice" (read: rice with cans of veggies we've collected from the back of the locker). While this all may sound horribly inconvenient and frustrating (sometimes it is), it affords us a reason to explore each town and get to know the locals as we ask for directions and walk through their neighborhoods to find their local food store. We can't afford to eat out much, but we still get to explore some of the "local color" with our method.

Shopping and cooking began as the most frustrating part of cruising for me, but now it's climbing my list of things I enjoy. By turning it into a bit of a game, I don't mind it as much. It's pretty funny to think that now Curt and I get so excited when we find a pile of fresh eggplant in a store and take it home to brainstorm about what we're going to do with it for a meal! And you should see us when we find some nice ground beef, or perhaps some fresh chicken! It becomes a cause for celebration and we celebrate by making our dinners into a full-on event.

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