Papua

Sea Fare — Victoria Allman in the Galley

 

Bimini Bread by Victoria Allman

Bimini Bread by Victoria Allman

Bimini Breakdown


by Victoria Allman


We were only going to be in Bimini for two days. There was no time to waste.  I wanted Bimini Bread.

Trouble was, we were anchored two miles off the east coast of the island and the tender was broken.  Harry, our engineer was busy trying to fix it.  But by the descriptive words coming out of his mouth, I held little hope it would be functioning in time to get me to the craft market and to Natalie’s stall before it closed.

Patrick came into our cabin as I stuffed a few loose bills in the pocket of my swim shorts.

“What are you doing?”  Patrick and I’d been married long enough for him to know I was going to take matters into my own hands.

“Taking the paddle board to shore.”  I handed him my bottle of sunscreen and turned so he could apply it to my back.

I could hear him rolling his eyes in his tone of voice.  “That’s over two miles away.

“I know.”

“The wind is still blowing.” 

We had rocked at anchor the night before through thirty-mile per hour gusts.  It had calmed by morning, but there was still a residual breeze and slight chop to the water.

“I know.”

“It will take you over an hour to get there.”

“I know.”

He heavy-sighed.  “I’ll get my trunks on.”

I turned and kissed him.  He put up a fight, but he liked an adventure as much as I did.

The hot sun set my sun-screened skin to glistening with sweat within moments of pushing off from the boat.  My muscles screamed in joy at being able to move again after two days at sea in rough conditions.  My paddle swished rhythmically and pulled me through the varying peacock, sapphire and royal colors of the water surrounding me.

It didn’t take long for Patrick to pass me and be half way to shore.  I spent most of the time shifting my gaze from the white sand beach of our destination to the clear waters below.  I glided over sea fans and rock formations that looked close enough to touch, although I knew they lay thirty-feet below

A barracuda stalks Victoria Allman

A barracuda stalks Victoria Allman

.

A flash of silver and white caught my eye and the board beneath my feet wobbled.  A four-foot barracuda hung suspended in teal just behind the back of my board.  I recovered from being startled and paddled closer to shore.  A dozen strokes later, I turned to see him following me.  Another dozen strokes and he was still there; a stalker at sea.

Ahead and to the left, lime green reflected in the sunlight.  I paddled closer.  Somewhere between the sandy ocean floor and me a sea turtle glided through the blue.  I stopped mid-stroke so as not to scare him.  Within seconds, he shot out of sight, startled by the shadow of a large predator hovering above.

In the distance, the flipper of a sunfish fluttered at the surface before it, too, darted off.

By the time I caught up with Patrick on the beach, I was hot and thirsty.  We stashed our boards under a wind-blown casuarina tree and headed up the road to the craft market.

I had been reading about Natalie’s Bimini bread for days.  Now in her late seventies, Natalie had been baking bread for the island for the past fifty years.  She was famous for it.

We approached the coral-colored hut and were greeted with the friendly smile of the islands.

“Welcome to Bimini.”  Carmen, Natalie’s daughter greeted us.  Her close-cropped hair, dark-rimmed glasses and polyester skirt made her look like more of a business woman than an island girl.

“We’ve come for some Bimini bread,” I said.

“They all do, child.”  She held up a loaf wrapped in plastic.  ”This here is the original.”  She arranged the remaining loaves in the bin.  “Mama’s been baking since dawn.”

I held out the soggy bills from my pocket and turned back to Patrick who was busy procuring two bottles of water from a cooler full of ice on the ground.  I held out the plastic bag and beamed.

“How are you going to get it back to the boat?”  Patrick is always the practical one.

My smile faded, but only for a moment.  “I guess we will just have to eat it here.”

“A whole loaf?”

I shrugged.  “There are worse things.” 

We wound our way back to the boards and sat under the dappled shade of the tree.  I ripped off a hunk of the bread and handed it to Patrick.  Crumbs fell onto my lap and stuck to my greasy skin.  The next chunk was for me.  I devoured the sweet, soft bread of the island in minutes and washed it down with the ice-cold water.  It didn’t take us long to make the loaf disappear.

With bellies full of bread, we slipped the boards into the lapping surf.  As I checked over my shoulder to see if I was still being followed, I hoped Harry would have the tender running by the time we returned.  I didn’t want a breakdown to stop me from bringing Bimini bread back to the boat.

—————

Bimini Bread


1 package active dry yeast

1 cup slightly warm coconut milk
4 1/2 cups unbleached flour (plus extra, if the dough comes out too wet)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs

2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons hot water

1 stick soft butter
3 tablespoons honey

Heat the coconut milk in a microwave for 10 seconds until barely warm. 

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine coconut milk with yeast and let sit for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients through eggs and mix on medium for 6 minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 hours in a warm place.

Divide the dough in half and roll into 2 greased loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix the honey and hot water and brush on top of loaves.

Bake at 300 for 30 minutes.

Mix together soft butter and honey until smooth.

Cool loaves slightly and serve warm with soft honey butter.

Makes 2 loaves

—————

Victoria Allman, author SEAsoned: A Chef’s Journey with Her Captain, has been following her stomach around the globe for twelve years as a yacht chef. She writes about her floating culinary odyssey through Europe, the Caribbean, Nepal, Vietnam, Africa and the South Pacific in her first book, Sea Fare: A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.

SEAsoned…, Victoria’s second book is the hilarious look at a yacht chef’s first year working for her husband while they cruise from the Bahamas to Italy, France, Greece and Spain; trying to stay afloat.

You can read more of her food-driven escapades through her web-site, www.victoriaallman.com

Narrative and recipe Copyright © 2011 by Victoria Allman.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Destinations, Passagemaking News

Sea Fare: Victoria Allman in the Galley – Spring 2011

Tribal Bartering

By Victoria Allman

“Are they still there?” I asked Patrick as he walked through the galley.

“They haven’t left.” Patrick grabbed a slice of pineapple from the platter in front of me. “We’re surrounded.”

I swatted his hand as he reached for another slice. The fruit tray was for the guests on Pangaea, the 185-foot yacht I was chef of, not for the crew, whether he was my husband or not.

I removed my apron and followed Patrick down the side passageway to our aft deck.  The equatorial sun of Papua New Guinea burned deep into my skin within seconds of leaving the cool air-conditioned environ of my galley. I raised my hand to shade my eyes and squinted out over the tea-colored water.

Patrick was right; we were surrounded. Trailing behind us were half a dozen hand-carved wooden canoes, each holding a dozen tribal men and women.  To our starboard side, another four canoes were packed with dark-skinned naked children. Half of them smiled wide, half crouched behind the gunwale, the whites of their eyes peaking over the rim, too scared to look, too intrigued to glance away.

We were a novelty. A boat our size had never traveled that far up the Sepik River before. We had anchored the night before in the center of the river, unable to navigate farther in the dark. The guest on board had requested a trip up the Sepik, also known as the Amazon of the Pacific, to the center of the country along some of the wildest and remotest terrain on earth to view spirit-houses and tour primitive villages. So far, our journey had twisted through steamy mangrove jungles, untouched dense rainforests and boggy swamps.

The guests were on a National Geographic-like expedition, only, it was being done in the luxury of a twenty million dollar yacht.

Sweat trickled between my breasts before I even reached the swim platform. A mosquito landed on my arm. I swatted it away with one hand while with the other I motioned to one of the canoes to come closer.

A man wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and an elaborate headdress of feathers and vines maneuvered his prow alongside the swim platform of Pangaea. Patrick reached down to steady the dugout vessel.

“Welcome.” The man’s rough smile showed betel nut-stained misshapen teeth. He spit velvet red juice into the muddy-brown water. It swirled a moment and disappeared in the fast-moving current. “We sell bananas and coconut.”

I smiled. The local market had come to me. “How much?”

I had been to Madang, the local town earlier that week and had a rough grasp of how the Kina worked. In such a poor country, five kina bought you almost anything. I had spent more money than the market-sellers had seen in a long time on sweet potatoes, water spinach and papaya to feed our twelve crew and twelve guests.

I pulled coins from my pocket and pointed to the branch of bananas on the rough-hewn floor. I held out my hand, but the man shook his head. The animal bone piercing his nose swung back and forth.

“No good here.” He waved his hand toward the river banks lined with clusters of wheat and wild sugarcane. The village we anchored in front of consisted of stilted one-room huts made of wood and thatch. Jungle forests stretched forever beyond the clearing. Of course, where would he spend the money? On what?

Patrick stepped in. “Batteries?” he asked.

The man nodded. Our local guide on board came down to translate.

Patrick disappeared into the engine room to grab some of our spares while I stood smiling at a two-year old, curly-headed girl draped in a dirty white cloth for a diaper. I wiggled my fingers in a wave that sent her burying her face between her mother’s bare breasts.

I looked from one woman to the next. Each was bare-chested with long, flat, shriveled breasts that hung low and uneven down their bellies. Some wore skirts of grass, some a cloth wrapped around their hips. I felt self-conscious in my white polo with the yacht’s logo stitched on the chest.

Patrick returned with a box of batteries and a plastic container. The man nodded and handed me the branch with dozens of green bananas attached. 

Patrick bent down beside the children in the center of the canoe and held out his hand. One child shrieked and huddled in the far corner, but a boy of about six years tentatively peeked into Patrick’s cupped hand. He reached out a scrawny arm and touched what was inside. He, too, shrieked. But, this one was out of excitement.  The other six children pushed and leaned in to get a view of what the strange white man with hair the color of the surrounding wheat fields had in his hand.

The first boy grabbed at what Patrick held and snuggled it to his chest. Finally, I could see what the excitement was all about. Patrick had brought a container of ice from our ice machine. The children pawed at the ice in the boy’s arms, but within seconds, it had disappeared. All heads turned back to Patrick, wide eyes pleading for more.

Patrick laughed and handed out cubes to all the children. The men from other canoes paddled close to see what the excitement was all about. One by one, each canoe approached the boat and as I traded batteries, an old frying pan and crew t-shirts for tropical fruits from the fields, Patrick entertained the children with the ice.

Within minutes, all the crew and guests had come to trade. Extra clothes were exchanged for carved masks, flashlights for weaved baskets. As the rudimentary bartering progressed, Patrick produced the exchange item of greatest value.

He and our engineer, Scotty, lowered the jet-skis into the water. One-by one, Patrick took each boy for a ride. They straddled the seat behind him; smiling and waving as they passed their village, showing off to those on shore waiting their turn. He taught them to drive our machines in exchange for them teaching a thirty-nine year old man how to balance in their round bottomed vessels.

“Stand in back. Just paddle.” One boy instructed. Patrick rose, balancing like he learned on his surfboard as the hollow tree trunk swayed beneath him.  He teetered right and corrected too quickly to the left.

Splash! He emerged from the muddy water laughing. Children and elders roared with laughter around us. To their immense pleasure, he ended up in the water many times, tipping out of the canoe before he mastered its balance. 

By mid-morning, when we had to pull anchor and continue our voyage up the river, we had emptied our reserves of essentials and loaded in their place a bounty of carvings and fruits.

“You’ve been taken advantage of.”  Our guide shook his head. “Two batteries for something that grows free on trees.”

I disagreed. For me, it was the other way around; two little batteries for the chance of creating our own market aboard.  The smile on the woman’s face when I handed over a pot for boiling water and the memory of children’s laughter at my husband’s ineptitude at mastering the canoe was well worth any amount of trade. I was definitely getting the better end of the deal.

We set off for our next destination leaving a trail of canoes and laughter in our wake and navigated toward our next stop for more tribal bartering.

———-

 

Fruit Salad with Coconut Rum Caramel Sauce - Photo Courtesy of Victoria Allman

Fruit Salad with Coconut Rum Caramel Sauce - Photo Courtesy of Victoria Allman

Tropical Fruit Salad

with a Coconut Rum Caramel Sauce 

Tropical Fruit Salad of:

 

  •  Pineapples
  •  Mangoes
  •   Papaya
  •   Bananas
  •   Grapefruit
  •   Oranges

 Coconut Rum Caramel Sauce:

 

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut rum
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, split and seeded

 

In a heavy-bottomed saucepot, cook the sugar and juice of the orange over moderately high heat until it turns a deep caramel color. It will darken quickly so watch closely, once it starts to color be ready to add the rum or the sugar will burn. At this point, the sugar is extremely hot. DO NOT TOUCH.  Remove from the heat and pour in the rum. The caramel will “spit” so stand back and be careful. Add coconut milk and vanilla pod and seeds and return to the heat. Simmer for 5 minutes until the caramel is dissolved.

Cool and serve with fruit salad.

Serves 8

———-

Victoria Allman, author SEAsoned: A Chef’s Journey with Her Captain, has been following her stomach around the globe for twelve years as a yacht chef.  She writes about her floating culinary odyssey through Europe, the Caribbean, Nepal, Vietnam, Africa and the South Pacific in her first book, Sea Fare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.

SEAsoned, Victoria’s second book is the hilarious look at a yacht chef’s first year working for her husband while they cruise from the Bahamas to Italy, France, Greece and Spain; trying to stay afloat.

You can read more of her food-driven escapades through her web-site, www.victoriaallman.com

Narrative and recipe Copyright © 2011 by Victoria Allman.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Destinations, megayachts, Passagemaking News, People