Book Review: The Boat Galley Cookbook, by Shearlock and Irons

The Boat Galley CookbookAlthough it is a hefty paperback, The Boat Galley Cookbook by cruisers Carolyn Shearlock and Jan Irons is likely to help raise your waterline, because it consolidates in one volume many culinary resources cruising chefs have previously felt obliged to carry.

Indeed, no  cruising cookbook I have ever seen has so deliberately set out to be a comprehensive examination of how to meet the challenges of cooking afloat.  “We each faced a huge learning curve when we first began cruising,” say the authors, “so, we’ve tried to pass on all the  things we wish we’d known!

The Boat Galley Cookbook is divided into two main sections.  In the first – “A Galley Frame of Mind” – the authors present tips on how to adjust your thinking from land to sea.  They advise on how to outfit your galley from scratch, make good provisioning choices for your voyage (including figuring out options available in foreign markets), and effectively store and protect various foodstuffs for passages.

Possibly  the most important section in the whole cookbook is the one on how to make  intelligent substitutions when some important recipe ingredient – like  buttermilk or sour cream — is not available.  (I can’t tell you how many times in a remote location this chapter would  have been a godsend!)  Another chapter  summarizes all the measurement equivalents and conversions you’re likely to  encounter moving from country to country.  There is even a chapter introducing some less familiar cooking  techniques that we cruisers pick up – like cooking in a thermos or baking in a  pressure cooker.  Before The Boat Galley Cookbook cruising cooks had to collect this information willy nilly.

Two  other helpful chapters in the section zero in on the very pertinent issues of  planning meals for underway consumption and on the special concerns when stormy  weather is on the horizon.

The Recipes section of The Boat Galley Cookbook shows equal consideration  for cruisers’ needs.  The section starts “Meal  Ideas for the Boating Life” with nine lists of recipe “inspirations” for  different situations, for example, ideas for breaking the monopoly of  sandwiches for lunch, good one-pot meals, hot weather meals,  and five-minute appetizers.  They have even specifically cross-referenced recipes for creatively using such cruiser standbys as pasta and cabbage!

Finally,  running my eye through the recipes themselves, it seems like they have covered  almost everything anyone could ever want to do.  Nineteen sub-sections of recipes run from beverages and breakfasts right  through desserts, plus there’s a section on using canned meats and one on  meatless main dishes.  I was pleased to find  many cruiser favorites typically shared around the fleet like Chinese Cole Slaw  and Fish Sausage, and I particularly double-checked the recipe for the  “Tropical Painkiller” – what could be called the national cocktail of the  Virgin Islands (and so often over-looked) to be sure it was accurate.  It was!

About  the only remotely critical observation I could make on this wonderful  compendium is that the recipes seem based primarily on ingredients already  well-known to North American cooks without exploring the unusual vegetables,  fruits, products or dishes we encounter in the lands we have sailed to  visit.   Although the authors encourage  readers to be bold in asking about unfamiliar vegetables in open markets,  include some tips about shopping in Central American “mercados”, and provide a  useful key to deciphering cuts of meat in Spanish (you will need a magnifying  glass to read this section), they do not go much into specifics.  In a book this comprehensive about everything  else, this would have been a welcome inclusion.

On  the other hand, cruisers spend a lot of time trying to reproduce the flavors of  home in situations far from home, and The Boat Galley Cookbook will  prove itself a valuable aid in so doing.

The Boat Galley Cookbook: 800 Everyday Recipes and Essential Tips for Cooking Aboard  is available on

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1 comment to Book Review: The Boat Galley Cookbook, by Shearlock and Irons

  • Harriet

    My friend Heather Stockard cruises extensively in Mexico and wrote a cookbook called A Cruising Cook’s Guide to Mexico. She has a lot of good information about food that you can find locally and recipes using local food. Her book is available on Amazon. She’s also a great cook!

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