Back home, I love to cook. When we renovated our house, the kitchen got a lot of attention. Tonnes of counter space for prepping, large sinks for processing produce, a six burner stove and even a pantry. All this wasn’t just for looks, as many modern kitchens are. I made most things from scratch and in the summer used every square foot for processing that which was in season.
I’ll admit I was nervous about the kitchen situation on Otoka, the counter tops were tiny; the fridge and freezer were puny compared to back home and would require attention to keep cold; the stove had two burners and featured an oven with no thermostat. Everything I knew about cooking was going out the window.
Six weeks into our life aboard came the first birthday. In continuation with our family’s tradition, a birthday request form was submitted. This is created by the birthday person and is a guide for cake type, preferred daily activities, special meal requests and present ideas. Most requests seemed reasonable, however a Lemon Meringue cake at anchorage, was one that was going to be hard to achieve. How on earth was I going to pull off a cake in an oven I had yet to turn on! I had a reputation to up keep and burnt cake would not do. In an effort to keep expectations low (a legitimate parenting strategy), I told Miss T that I could not manage a cake and we would have to go out for desert when we were shore side. Now that the pressure was off, I set my mind to creating something special.
Have you ever heard the saying “Necessity is the mother of all invention.”? Well it is.
Have you ever heard the saying “Necessity is the mother of all invention.”? Well it is. I started thinking how can I make a cake using only the stove top? My imagination created a crepe cake, or pannenkoeken as we call them in my house (learned from my Oma), layered with lemon curd, whip cream, and crushed chocolate cookies; topped with candles I hoped it would have the desired effect.
Making a “surprise” cake on a boat can be a challenge, so when your kid asks to play Minecraft on their birthday you say “sure thing” and hope that they get good and sucked in. My husband was an excellent helper, whipping the tetra pack whip cream (mixed with a small amount of vanilla pudding mix for stabilization) and generally being a second set of hands. I got on with cooking the pannenkoeken. In no time at all, there was a good stack of them but they needed to be cooled and we were short on time and counter/fridge space. Necessity again lead inspiration. This time, hanging the pancakes all around our kitchen on ropes. Once cooled assembly was the only step left. Assembly is always a favorite.
It is here you can imagine the joy and love that you wish to transfer to the recipient.
It is here you can imagine the joy and love that you wish to transfer to the recipient. With each layer and sprinkle, the magic builds until its culmination on the top; a sum of all its parts.
It goes without saying that she loved it, kids love cake, but she also loved the adaptation and the effort of getting as close as we could to her request. The timing of me coming up the companionway with cake in hand singing “HaPpY BiRtHdAy” could not have been better as a local tour boat was passing close by and so she also received a resounding cheer from its patrons.
This experience made me realise something. Cooking can be more inspired with limitations. It forces creativity. From the greater perspective of our new lifestyle, we are learning to live creatively with a whole new host of limitations and we are the better for it. Finding resilience, refining necessity, and rethinking convenience. All wonderful lessons, learned aboard.