On a Boat, It’s Not Always Perfect, But It Is Just Right

I traded swanky, landscaped, plated meals for the pine-studded coast liberally sprinkled with lichen-covered granite and a sea that is ever changing from a smokey charcoal to deep forest green.  My kitchen (galley) is outside and instead of being enclosed by four greasy walls lined with pots, pans and stainless equipment, I have pine tables, a cast iron wood stove and the smell of wood smoke.  My skin has the kiss of the sun, rather than the pasty white of someone who works indoors, even in the summer.

However, as a chef, there are a few things that occasionally ding my pride.  I’m a big girl, also an enthusiastic, optimistic one, so the moment doesn’t last long.  But I cook  on a boat all summer long and there are a number of situations that take priority over the visual attractiveness of my culinary hard work.  Sometimes my food doesn’t look perfect and it bothers me.

For example, the reason this salad has so many apples on it is not that Cassie, my assistant cook, got crazy with the apples, although this is not out of the question.  No, the true reason is that salad greens unprotected, literally, blow away with the first step on deck.  We feed the fish, not our guests.IMG_7753-001a

I love the look of micro-greens.  Do I ever use these delicate beauties?  No.  I would be the only one to see them.  See the blowing away reference above.

Also, the nature of my galley and the space available on any boat dictates that I serve family style.  I don’t have space to plate up 30 dinners in my galley.  Which means that sometimes my food is served in the pan in which it was cooked.  Again, there is a rustic simplicity, and dare I say beauty, to this look.  But no, beauty is not the word.  Practical, useful, convenient, expedient, safe, frugal.  These are the words I would use to describe my pans, but I tell you, a girl who wants to look pretty does NOT want to use these words and neither does the girl, who is the chef, who wants her food to look pretty.

The menu for lunch on the day these photos were taken was:

Local Porcini and Broccoli Leaf Mac n Cheese, Roasted Veggie and Local Italian Sausage Mac n Cheese, Garlic Knots, Apple, Walnut, Raisin Garden Greens Salad, Dijon and Champagne Vinaigrette and an Apricot Orange Pound Cake


It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  And then I look at these photos and I’m sad that they don’t do it justice.  I remember this meal and I loved the Porcini and Broccoli Leaf Mac n Cheese… There was nothing left of this meal.  But the look of it?  The pans are …  Hmm.

Ah well, at heart I am both creative, practical, artistic, and frugal.  It turns out that my food on this beautiful boat we sail, meandering along the breathtaking Maine Coast, has the exact qualities of both me and of Maine.  I’d rather be right where I am – in my outdoor kitchen, creating honest food that fits it’s place perfectly.

Just accepting what is


  • Cathy Wilkerson
    February 23, 2015 at 4:50 am

    Annie, I get what you are saying. I do. But for my part, I think anyone who gets to experience your food on the Riggin is extremely fortunate indeed! I am forever grateful that I found you and you were able to take our wedding party sailing for our rehearsal dinner. (5/31/12) Your food was amazing, the pails of lilacs from your garden were fragrant and lovely, and our day at sea was perfect! What wonderful memories!!
    BTW, Josh and Kelley are now the proud parents of 2 daughter’s. Dylan is 18 mos. old and Reese is almost one week old. And this grandma would love to bring them sailing on the Riggin when they get bigger!

    • Annie Mahle
      February 24, 2015 at 6:22 pm

      SO happy for Josh and Kelley. Give them our best. And thanks for the vote of support. We loved having you all and love forward to meeting the little ones someday!

  • Ellie Roberts
    February 23, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Your meals are always delicious. Who cares about the pans? Your galley isn’t a made for TV show where they have brand new baking sheets and utencils every show.

    • Annie Mahle
      February 24, 2015 at 6:20 pm

      So true, Ellie. And I can so live with that.

  • Harold Hoffman
    February 23, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Your meals and presentations are ALWAYS beautiful! I understand your sentiments but you take a back seat to NO ONE in your presentations!

    • Annie Mahle
      February 24, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      Awe, Harold, thanks. What a lot of love floating around here! “Hi” to Eileen.

  • Pinky Rines
    February 23, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    So, Annie, what you’re saying is that while the food is fantastic, “you know what would make this really awesome?” is fancy pans? 🙂 It makes me feel better when I serve from the baking dishes at home (which is 99% of the time) to be able to say, “Well, Annie does it, too, and she’s a pro!”

    • Annie Mahle
      February 24, 2015 at 6:18 pm

      Hilarious. Maybe that’s what I should have posted instead. You make me laugh. Tell Glen “hi” too.

  • louisaenright
    February 24, 2015 at 9:48 am

    We don’t care about the pans. The food is beyond wonderful!! I love all the local, farm fresh produce you serve–the diversity and abundance of it all. And I love all the flowers from your garden that are on the ship when we arrive and which survive most of the week. And I love the constant good humor and laughter that resides constantly during a time at sea with you, Jon, the girls, and the crew.

    • Annie Mahle
      February 24, 2015 at 6:16 pm

      Man, I really didn’t mean this post as a plug for compliments, but you are all warming my heart! Hope you and the hens are staying warm, Louisa.

  • Bruce Standley
    February 24, 2015 at 10:26 am

    Food is like people. It’s what is on the inside that is important. The delicious food that you are able to produce in that small space with an unpredictable cooking appliance is nothing next to amazing.

    • Annie Mahle
      February 24, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      Thanks, Bruce. Too true about food and people both.

  • Al T
    February 24, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Annie, forget the pans, give me a knife, fork and spoon. I am ready to dig in. So looking forward to sailing with you again in June.

    • Annie Mahle
      February 24, 2015 at 6:15 pm

      Thanks, Al! Can’t wait to see you.

  • dh
    February 25, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Dearest Chef/Capt. Annie!!
    I have nothing new to add. We all LOVE anything you prepare!! I am so sorry you did not realize that you could put one of your fabulous creations in a little garbage can and no one would give it a second thought! You are a true spirit & artist:). Missing you… Donna

    • Annie Mahle
      February 26, 2015 at 5:30 am

      Donna, I am laughing. Garbage can would not be a step in the right direction, Dear One, but I am so loving that you said so.

  • Emily Scott
    February 28, 2015 at 6:17 am

    Oh my word, it looks delicious. I don’t even see the pans, just the yummy food.

    • Annie Mahle
      February 28, 2015 at 8:53 am

      Thanks, Emily! Fun to here from someone across the pond!


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: