[from the stabenow.com vaults, 2007]
It’s Easter, it’s Sunday, stand down and take a breath, Munro.
We were up late last night. Sunrise service got switched to sunset service, no pipes that weren’t absolutely necessary this morning, and a lot of us slept in. When I finally woke up, I slathered myself all over with sunblock and went and vegged on the foredeck. Bliss.
This afternoon I went down to the mess deck. FS3 Matthew Dulemba is scrubbing the grill, FA Eason Spinelli is scrubbing pots, SN Shane Williams is dishing out the cranberries, FS2 Lee Schob and FS2 Moy Castillo are going over next week’s menu, and night baker FS2 Nickie Steele is giving the dough for dinner rolls a contemplative frown. After this patrol she is going to an 87 in Kauai. She’s looking forward to being the boss of her own galley, and to feeding a smaller crew.
The shipboard menu begins with Moy, who is our storekeeper. He tells the senior food service officer what we have in dry stores, in the refer and in the freezer. They come back with a menu signed off by the FSO, the XO and the Captain, and then he sits down with the mess cooks and together they figure out how many bags, boxes and cans they need of what on which day. Moy is the lucky man who hauls everything up, but it doesn’t seem to diminish his interest in food. He admits to tinkering. He points at the menu. “Here we have tater tots with fried cod. What kind of potatoes would you want with fried fish?” French fries? “Right.” He and Nickie confer over how to make French bread more, well, French. So he cooks, too?” “Oh yeah,” he says, waving a hand at the galley. “I’ve done all those jobs.”
Moy took me below to give me the grand tour of our stores (“We steal some space from Supplies, too,” he says, “we keep the space milk in with the parts”). When we started our patrol, each of the spaces was literally stacked to the roof, and to get to any one thing you had to pull out everything in front of it. Now that we’ve been underway for a while, you only have to climb over the brown rice to get into dry stores.
Moy’s four year enlistment is up soon and he’s going to fall back on civilian life in his hometown (“It’s a little place. You’ve probably never heard of it. Los Angeles.”) and regroup. He did some silkscreening and wood prints before he joined and he thinks he might get back into that, but he’s keeping his options open. “I’ll probably stay in the Reserve.”
I caught Senior Chief George Minos filching a piece of ham on camera before the mess cooks chased him out. He’s rotating out into his next billet shortly, and FS1 Kelly Napier is stepping into the boss’ job.
She’s a little nervous (“Right now I have Senior to backstop me”) but she’s excited, too. “I love food,” she says. At home she cooks a lot of Italian (heavy on the garlic, my kind of girl). There are times when she’ll run across a recipe, like chicken breast stuffed with cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, that she’d love to try out on the crew, but she just doesn’t have the manpower for such a labor-intensive dish. Munro has six mess cooks in the galley, where we should have two or three more, so she’s warmly appreciative of how hard they all work to feed the Munro’s crew.
She’s from Philadelphia, and is back in the Coast Guard again after an eighteen-month hiatus (“I knew right away I’d made a mistake in leaving”). After the Munro and her time in Alaska she’ll be a number 2 priority, and she’s hoping to go to a 220, a buoy tender in Rhode Island, just four hours from home. She is pleased when I compliment the food underway. “Sometimes you’ll work so hard at a dish and then the crew gives it thumbs down. It really hurts,” Kelly says. “I guess you’re only as good as your last meal.”
If we went by the meal tonight, that is pretty good. Ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, and apple pie and ice cream. “Best meal we’ve had underway,” EO LT Todd Raybon says. “They’ve all been pretty good,” the XO says.
They’re both right.
And so to bed. Early.
Click here to order a copy.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.