Friday, December 08, 2006

The Thunder from Down Under

Cheese Toasties with Vegemite

Things have been absolutely hectic for the past week as we get the yacht ready for our departure to the Exumas, in the Bahama’s, on Tuesday. We were out of the water, in the yard, for four days having some work done on the engine and I have some really awesome pictures of the yard and us being hauled out that I will post as soon as I have internet access on my laptop. Being out of the water and surrounded by other mega yachts (they are so much bigger out of the water!) is like being surrounded by a dozen Titanics. It’s almost awe inspiring to walk amongst them. The crew that I work with are fantastic, they are all a bunch of monkeys and we got on well and are having a lot of fun as we work our fingers to the bone; cleaning, detailing, provisioning, etc.

I’m loving my new galley; yards of granite counter space, beautiful wood floors and cabinetry and extremely well equipped. And thankfully, my galley is on the main deck so I have a beautiful view out of my port and starboard sides; full windows all the way across, no more looking through a tiny porthole and watching the water slosh by. And, if I should want to watch some re-runs of Julia Child’s cooking series on PBS all I have to do is turn on the giant, plasma, widescreen television on the wall across from me. I have a four burner gas stove, and although it’s gas it is pretty responsive and works well. But, I am putting “induction stove” on my wish list as the owners are currently looking into upgrading to a 130” (45 meter) Fedship. Along with the fridge and freezer in the galley, I also have a coffin freezer in the laundry room and two more freezers down near the engine room, plenty of storage space – but it will all be packed to the brim before we depart.

My first order of business has been to get my pantry together and start provisioning for the passage which has required no less than two trips to Costco, at least a dozen trips to the grocery store (filling up two grocery carts per visit), six trips to the gourmet store and two large deliveries directly to the yacht from provisioners. There are two great shops down here; The International Market and the Grateful Palette. I was first told about International Market by some Australian yachties that I met at the crew house. They were talking about their excitement over finding TimTams, an Australian cookie (or biscuit, as they call them); a chocolate wafer, covered in chocolate and with a chocolate filling. The biscuits are rectangular in shape, and the Aussie’s do what they call “slammers” – bite each end off, put the biscuit in coffee and suck it through. I have yet to experience a slammer, as I haven’t wanted to sacrifice one of my shirts in the mess that is sure to happen, but I did get a pack of TimTams to try and I was really enjoying them until I read on the package that each cookie is 340 calories. I think I’ll wait another couple of decades before I delve into them again.

The international market is full of all sorts of goodies. Catering to yacht chefs, they carry everything from gelatin sheets, gourmet chocolate and vanilla beans to sumac, za’atar, pomegranate syrup and grape leaves and whatever they don’t have, The Grateful Palate, just a few blocks away, will. Unlike the International market, The Grateful Palate is a full fledged provisioner – meaning they supply fish, meat, produce, specialty ingredients, wine, kitchen equipment, etc. to the yachts. I can just call in my order and it will be delivered to wherever the yacht is in Fort Lauderdale, or shipped to the yacht anywhere in the world for that matter. It’s really quite an amazing world to be a part of; I mean a world where the best of everything and anything you could possibly want is, literally, a phone call away. And it’s my job to know that number…

My first season in the yacht world was all about meeting South Africans. But this season is setting out to be the season of the Kiwi’s and the Aussies. I landed this job through an Aussie that was staying at the crew house that knew a captain in need of a chef, and put me in touch. Our 1st Mate is an Aussie, and I’ve been making Aussie friends left and right. It was another Aussie that put me in touch with the Grateful Palate, as it seems to be the only place in town carrying Vegemite (Yes, that Men At Work song goes through my head every time I look at a jar of Vegemite), which I had to stock up on for our mate.

Vegemite is a “yeast extract”. It comes in a squat, brown, glass jar with a bright yellow label and in a big red triangle reads “VEGEMITE - Concentrated Autolyzed Yeast Extract”. What, precisely, that means, I’m not entirely sure but whatever it is, I am TOTALLY ADDICTED. It’s dark brown in color and thick and creamy, like peanut butter, or an overly reduced demi-glaze. But unlike peanut butter, Vegemite is meant to be used in a very small quantity. I find the smell to be quite pleasant; fermentation and must – like a wine barrel. It’s got a yeasty, fermented, savory flavor; exactly what I would imagine umami to be. Like The Colonels chicken, it contains that same secret ingredient that makes you crave it fortnightly. I love it; on toast in the morning with butter and a thin layer of Vegemite, or on a toasted cheese sandwich. I can’t seem to get enough of it! I tried Marmite last year when I was working with a bunch of Brits (Marmite is the British version of Vegemite) and I don’t recall reacting with the same fervor. In fact, I was very much put off by it. Marmite was quite pungent and had a funky aftertaste that clung to my mouth. I found it a bit overpowering. Whereas Marmite reminds me of something indiscernible, perhaps fish related, fermenting and rotting in a jar – Vegemite tastes like super concentrated beer. Perhaps that’s why I like Aussie’s so much! ;o)

Vegemite Sandwich:

Spread a little butter on bread, apply a thin layer of vegemite and then top with cheese. Put under the broiler until cheese is melty and warm. Eat. Savor. Enjoy.


Anonymous said...

Honey! I am not only hooked on Vegemite myself but have to check regularly on your blog site - you have such a lovely writing style and it makes me feel that we are on the same boat! Miss you. Shan xxx

diego said...

I used to love the Grateful Palate until today, dec 29/06.

I brought a friend of mine to Grateful Palate around 2:30pm for lunch. The owner of the restaurant was having lunch with a couple, entertaining them, and going back and forth from the kitchen's grill where he was preparing a meal. He was sitting beside the main counter top between the kitchen and the customers area, between the countertop and the deli area.

I was midway my meal when he lit up a cigarette and started smoking. Few times he put down the cigarette to go behind the deli and kitchen area to reach for food and such and I guess continue preparing meals.

I finished eating and went up to the owner and told him that even if it's his own restaurant he shouldn't be smoking while there are still customer eating, to which he replied that American laws don't apply at the grateful palate since it's not an American restaurant but indeed is an Australian Embassy and therefore Australian laws apply instead. After saying so he thanked me, pat me a couple of times hardly in the back and sent me my merry way with a not so gently push.

The owner did a few other things that my friend and I considered disgusting.

The food's ingredient were great, food was tasty, but the owner's arrogance and ignorance totally ruined the experience.

My stomach is torn, I feel nauseous and I am left a really bad taste in my mouth.

Needless to say I am never going back nor I am ever going to bring any of my friends/coworkers there.

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