Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Lorain, Ohio
What makes these people dishillusioned? Well, many things really, and it is different for each one, but let me tell you about one particular Greek fellow, which I'll call Nick the Greek here. It was the last sailing season for the Homer D. Williams, though nobody aboard knew that at the time. The Chief Steward aboard at fit out was a very popular fellow as a head cook in the fleet, and that was basically because he was an old fashioned kind of cook who did everything from scratch, and had a weekly menu that your grandma would have envied, but was just basically good homestyle food that most homestyle restrarants would kill to be able to serve properly. He was inventive, and creative with leftovers, and tasted everything himself before he'd allow it to be served to the crew. Even helped the second cook out in preparing bakery items as he just loved to teach other people what he knew. His stateroom was filled with cookbooks, and not just the ones that he had authored either. And because he was such a great cook his budget reflected it in that it was the lowest food budget on the entire Great Lakes. Or at least it was up until he was transfered upward to a triple A class ship three months into the season, and Nick the Greek stepped aboard at the Soo from the Ojibway. The Ojibway is ship's chandlery Owned by USSteel, a small boat with a crane on it for putting ships stores aboard a ship that is down bound through the Sault Ste Marie Canal, and River system, (or the Soo for short) heading for the lower lakes.
Immediately the food went to hell in a handbasket. Weinners, and beans, and stoffer's pre-prepared food becoming the new staple of the crew. A crew that were fast becoming very angry if I might say so as was I over Nick the Greek's nearly tasteless menus. But what was really the kicker, and so **** frustrating at that, was the magnificient smells that still were eminating from the galley even though our former chef had been replaced. And not just Bakery either. The scents that wafted through the air between meals gave a promise that never found reality when the meals were served, and was quickly driving everyone aboard insane with lustful wantoness unfulfilled. Like being teased at a B bar, and never even getting kissed after dishing out hundreds of dollars in buying the girl's drinks.
And then one day I got a call from the pilot house while I was eating lunch, and had to go through the galley to get to the pilot house in a hurry. And it was midway through the galley that I came to a screeching hault, right in front of a tray of steaming food that looked, and smelled wonderful.
"I didn't see this on the menu," I said to the only one there, who happened to be the second cook.
"It's not on the menu," he chuckled, "that's the Steward's lunch. Can't remember what he called it, but it's one of his recipes from Greece."
"Is that so," I replied sneaking a taste when he turned his back before rushing to the pilot house.
I swear, I almost creamed my jeans with just that one taste. And I vowed to get the recipe from Nick as soon as I saw him again. As it turned out I became extremely busy over the next few days so that it wasn't until three days later that I had a chance to talk to Nick. And by then he wasn't sure what he'd made himself that day. But luckily we were in the Galley then, and I asked him what he was eating, because again I hadn't seen that on the menu.
"Well, it's Greek," and he said it as if that should have explained everything.
"Okay, so it is Greek," I said, "but what is it?"
"A recipe from my homeland," and this time he acted as if I were dense or something worse.
"I get that part," I chuckled, "the problem here is that why isn't it on the menu instead of that crap that I had to order."
Now that made him blink. Nobody aboard a ship would ever dare to ask the ship's cook something about his cooking in the fashion that I just did without expecting retribution in their future meals, and I knew this going in.
"I don't understand," Nick replied, "I served you American food, didn't I?"
And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. This guy couldn't cook Homestyle Americana to save his ass, but then he had only recently come to America only five years earlier, and as he later told me worked as a head chef at a five star Greek Restrarant in New York City before finding out about the great pay for cooks out on the Great Lakes. The only thing was that in the new USSteel Fleet he had been directed to keep, and serve the pre-prepared food as often as he could. And he had interpreted that directive to mean that he only cook, and serve American Food. To him that meant hot dogs, hamburgers, Steak, and those tubs of frozen entrees USSteel brought aboard.
"I don't remember limiting my palet to what you call American food, Nick. In fact I love home made Greek food, and so does the rest of this crew. I mean you didn't think pizza, and speggetti were American before they started serving it in restrarants here in America, did you? And I'll bet right now that you have the highest food budget in the company, don't you?"
I could see from his face that I was right on the mark. But he still wasn't sure.
"Tell you what," I suggested, "tomorrow make some of your homemade Greek Chicken soup as one of the soups for the day. I'll bet you run out of that before you run out of anything else. And if I'm right you start cooking Greek from now on. Is it a deal?"
We shook hands on it, but I could see that there was still some doubt in his mind. After all, the next day was Saturday, Steak day, always the favorite day with any crew as far as food was concerned, because at least you knew what you were getting that day was gonna be real food, and tasted good too because it was cooked to your specifications.
He ran out of soup halfway through lunch, and I won my bet. Still, Nick only went half way as far as meeting the bet was concerned. He cooked half the menu Greek, and the other half Americana. But as time went on the American half became smaller in quantity, and his budget soon matched that of the former cook. And since the other vessels that he had worked aboard didn't know about Nick the Greeks real talent he got to stay there the rest of the year. And if you've ever had Greek Food prepared by a real Greek Chef then you know how wonderful the rest of that Last Year of the Homer D. Williams was for the officers and crew aboard her.
Capt John S. Keller