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Man cannot live by bread alone

I know, I’ve tried it. Mind you, I do bake a mean loaf, if I say so myself. Actually, I’m probably the only one who would say so; people who crewed for me at various times on Troutbridge might put it differently. After the shipwreck in Fiji, I had no oven onboard, just a two-burner hob. Luckily, I learned a new way of making bread whilst staying with Rose and Vince, the couple who ‘adopted’ me in Suva. Readers of the sailing blog might recall that I stayed with them for just over twelve months. Towards the end of the stay, realising how limited my cooking facilities were going to be–the hob and no fridge–I purchased a new pressure cooker (for the dried beans) and investigated bread making in the pressure cooker. The ‘house girl’ showed me how to make what is essentially unleavened bread in a frying pan–very biblical–and I was experimenting in the kitchen one day when Rose appeared. I was about to add the baking powder.

“Not too much!” Rose fiercely admonished.

I complied, then added some curry powder.

“More!” Said equally fiercely.

Now, I love Rose (and Vince) to bits but she was, doubtless still is, a fierce lady. She comes from a long line of Fijian chiefs and has inherited the knack of keeping order. She certainly kept me and Vince in order, plus anybody else who happened to be around. At one time there was a band living downstairs, me–the resident writer as Vince put it–upstairs and a steady stream of visitors who had a tendency to stay for a day or three. When one of us transgressed, we all crept around hoping Rose wouldn’t notice that we were still there. Happy days, despite the shipwreck.

Fast forward a few months and I received a stern lecture from Maureen (Maureen and Paul Calypso) about nutrition. As I recall, we were in a supermarket in Brisbane and Maureen had a trolley full of green stuff. I had a basket full of wine and flour (for the unleavened bread). This apparently would inevitably lead to scurvy and I was directed towards the fresh veg section. Adding lime juice to rum and water would not suffice.

That reminds me of another story from those days. I can’t remember who told me this, but it occurred in a supermarket in Colon, Panama. Colon is at the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal, and the shopping is better there than in Panama City, which is at the Pacific end of the Canal and a lengthy bus ride from Colon. The lady of a boat was stocking up for the Pacific crossing and saw a couple of lads from an (all male) American boat. The boat had come to Panama from the States and hence the crew had not spent more than three or four days at sea. Their two trolleys groaned under the weight of wine, beer, spirits and snacks–peanuts, crisps and the like. She expressed surprise that they were doing their shopping in two trips. She couldn’t manage it in one–the master and commander of her boat being unavailable due to some urgent maintenance task–but thought that they, young and fit, would opt to do the provisioning in one fell swoop.

They had.

Ah. Food? It was 4000-odd miles to the Marquesas. Provisioning in the Galápagos Isles–a mere 900 miles from Panama–was reputed to be uncertain.

They proudly pointed out a few packets of instant noodles lurking underneath the snacks.

Might she make a suggestion, seeing as how she had cruised for a number of years and had gained a great deal of experience in provisioning?

By all means.

She suggested that they get a third trolley and proceeded to walk them around the food section of the supermarket.

The point of all this reminiscing about provisioning? According to a BBC report there is something like one million households in the UK that rely on charity food banks. A shocking statistic and an indictment of government policy, if actually true. As I navigate my bus around the reefs and shoals of the several housing estates in Andover where one might think that some of these reputed one million households might be found, I hear conversations. Some of these conversations allude to the food banks and there is general agreement that if some people spent less on booze and fags and having a good time then they might be able to feed their families.

People can be very cruel at times.

Then I remember Rose and Vince. People can be very kind as well.

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