No Hardtack For Us


I haven’t always been in a place to garden. For about five years, I lived on my 37′ sailboat. At least one son lived there permanently with me, and two of my other teens spent a lot of time there, also. However, I kept several pots of aloe vera on hand for sunburns and cuts, as well as a hanging cherry tomato or two for something fresh to eat.

When I first moved onboard, I had a wicked time trying to cook a meal on the little two-burner propane stove. By the time I moved off the boat and into a house, I could cook a full Thanksgiving dinner on the tiny stove – turkey, pumpkin pie, and all the trimmings.

There was a small oven on the stove, and I had this fantasy that people would be lured by the smell of baking bread as we sailed along. Probably no one else could smell it, but it was enough to tantalize myself and whatever crew was sailing with me at the time. Can you smell it baking while I’m hoisting up my sails?

My recipe was simple – a no-knead whole wheat bread. In a very low oven, warm 7 ½ cups of whole wheat flour in a large bowl for about 20 minutes. Dissolve 6 teaspoons dry yeast in 1 cup lukewarm water and add 1 tablespoon honey. Mix 4 tablespoons molasses with 1 cup warm water. Combine yeast and molasses mixtures and add with 2 tablespoons salt to the warm flour. Add enough water to make a sticky dough, approximately 2 cups.

I usually get 2 large loaves out of this, or you can get 3 small loaves. Butter your pans and turn the dough into the pans. No need to knead the dough. Let it rise for an hour and preheat oven to 450 F. Bake about 50 minutes or until crust is brown. I let it stand in the oven for a bit after I turn off the oven. You are supposed to let it cool before you eat it, but I’ve never been able to do that!

I marked it in my cookbook that I fixed this for the first time while sailing into Avalon on July 25, 1980. Mark, my third child, was turning 21 the next day, so we celebrated that night.

Split pea soup became another tradition on all our homeward bound trips after a week or more at sea. It’s a good thing stoves on a sailboat are gimbaled so that they remain steady and the soup doesn’t slop out when we are heeled over on a good run.

Brown up some bacon ends and pieces in a pan, then add chopped onion and slivers of carrot and cook slightly. Add a package of split peas and water. Add seasonings. I put in pepper, oregano, marjoram, bay leaf, or whatever I have on hand. Simmer until peas and veggies are cooked, but I like to leave the peas slightly lumpy for a hearty soup. It thickens as it stands, but like the bread, it rarely has time to stand.

A big mug of hot pea soup with freshly baked bread slathered in butter seemed to make it easier to head back home. There was no hardtack for us!

Even though I am no longer known as the “BOATLDY,” I still fix this soup, and serve it along with biscuits, garlic bread, corn bread, or my fast no-knead whole wheat bread. It is a wonderful rustic and earthy meal for visiting friends – and especially on those coolish evenings in Ocean View. A few fresh herbs from my herb garden add extra flavor.

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