Fight the Hungry Bear

September 2014 Austa Cook Web Exclusive

What’s one of the most stressful things at home? Cooking for everyone.

What’s one of the most stressful things on a houseboat?

Cooking for everyone.

And yet what does everyone love while kicking back on vacation? Eating, eating, and more eating!

If you’ve been dubbed the head chef of your next houseboat trip, here’s some great advice we’ve found that will keep the stress out of your vacation and the grey out of your hair.

To begin, here’s a guiding rule of thumb: an easy way to get organized is to brainstorm a big list of all the spices, condiments, and materials you’d possibly need. If you’re renting a houseboat, investigate beforehand to see what is and isn’t included onboard and compare the items to your list. Some rentals don’t include niceties like hand towels or pillowcases, and they probably won’t have salt or pepper, so for the sake of everyone you’ll want to be thorough.

If you’re boarding your own houseboat, make sure everything that was once onboard is still there and hasn’t walked off. You don’t want to be on the water ready to flip double-decker French toast before you realize you’re missing a spatula.

In either case, follow Santa’s wisdom in checking everything twice, and maybe three times.

The first major help for any chef is to prep as much as possible beforehand. This will only save you time to enjoy yourself and has the added bonus of making cooking labor-light. If you’re bringing fresh fruit or veggies, wash and cut what you can while you have a big sink and lots of running water at home.

You can also save a lot of money this way—you won’t be cornered into buying things you’ve forgotten with bigger price tags later in your trip. You can even plan fancier meals if you take the time to finish finer-hand prep and simply work some magic on the boat by assembling everything with a quick one-two.

To help you save space in the kitchen, pack items in smaller containers if you buy food in bulk from a warehouse store. If you don’t need a case of spaghetti noodles, it’s easier to divide them up and bring only what you’ll need, with a little extra to spare.

Another idea is to bring disposable plates, cups, utensils, and foil pans for some of your meals. This will help you save water, time, and space when cleaning up in smaller houseboat sinks. If you want to plan a finer dinner, clean-up will be easier if a more relaxed lunch or breakfast was eaten on disposable ware that can simply be thrown away.

Pre-freeze whatever you can—this makes food easy to store in a hardy condition while cutting down on the ice space you’d otherwise need to keep everything chilled. One idea from houseboatfun.com is to scramble and season eggs beforehand, then freeze them in Ziploc bags to use as little ice packs.

Another important thing to note is to make sure your cooking materials will fit where they’re supposed to. Many houseboat ovens are pretty small, so double-check what size of pans will fit before you freeze a meat lover’s lasagna in Grandma's feed-a-small-army pan. If you have a grill, this is an especially tasty and space-efficient way to cook meat.

Remember to take a small camp shovel and firewood if you’ll be mooring at beaches that allow campfires. This is a fun and scenic way to enjoy a nighttime meal together. Few things are more picturesque than roasting brats in the firelight while the moon looms over dark, rustling water. For sand-free feet, you can bring a small tub for water and station it by the entrance of the houseboat.

And finally, remember that being out in the fresh air can really bring out the hungry bear in everyone. To be on the safe side, consider packing extra to brace for bigger appetites, and you’ll have one happy houseboat crowd.

Thanks goes to the sites underneath for their insightful advice. If you want to read more of what they have to say, click below:

houseboatfun.com

houseboating.org/Meal-Planning-For-Your-Houseboat-Vacation

thekitchn.com/-good-questions-70-118126

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