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So I did mention before I would write a bit about what happened with 2013 and the first few months of 2014.

Greek memories 2013

Greek memories 2013

Last summer season ran itself out in Greece with the boat and we sailed back to La Spezia mid October to prepare the boat for the winter in the Caribbean, but one that I was not going to be onboard for. It was breaking my heart that I was to leave, not for the want of leaving but for a change of crew. Packing up all my stuff, years and years of things onboard were to be removed, and oh boy did that take some doing as I have many galley items that I have collected along the way, cookie cutters, knife sharpeners, my knives, other kitchen utensils, plus of course the cook books and magazines that I adore and have to have with me. Oh the list runs on, but yes all of it bar some uniform was boxed up and removed. I was emotionally upset by it all and it took a while to sink in what was happening around me, but another chef arrived and I left the boat…

November days 2013

November days 2013

 

 

It did not take me long to fly back to Italy to absorb the life I adore in the Mediterranean.  The festive period came and I shot off to the USA to be with my Greek American family to celebrate a new year and shortly after that flew back to Italy before going onto Australia where I was emmersed in cooking, SUPing, walking and cleaning but only for a short while as I was called back to the boat. Inside there was a cry of joy, back to sea, back to cooking onboard, back to the life I love !

I flew back to the boat in late February and had a week to sort out what was onboard and prep up before an en slaught of 5 weeks of family, guests and race crew with 2 extra yachts to help keep stocked of food for 12 hungry guys. That period is almost now a blur, but if I go over texts I was sending friends during that time, especially another chef on another boat racing, it brings back memories of exhausting days, stress filled shopping trips ashore, organizing crew, race crew, guests, food deliveries, baking bread for 26 people a day to have sandwiches as we raced around Virgin Gorda ! But that stress, that exhaustion is what I live for, it is a drive that makes me love those periods, and yearn for more as they are all organized periods of chaos. 

We took part in three regattas which was great, but sadly had many things go wrong with the boat so that was not so much fun. The BVI regatta, sailing around Virgin Gorda was a great experience and one I hope to do again soon. After this we went down to St Barths via Anguilla and St Martin so that I could stock up for the next regatta. The guests had a relaxing day in Anguilla playing golf whilst we took some time to chill and regroup before our next regatta ! St Martin for me was one mad dash around supermarkets to stock up and be prepared to make 70 sandwiches or wraps again for the next 5 days as the day after the Bucket regatta finishes we were to race in the Pineapple Regatta, where 5 German owned yachts had their own race.

Regatta time Caribbean March 2014

Regatta time Caribbean March 2014

St Barths is one of my favourite islands and a great regatta but a hard regatta. The wind and sea can play havoc with us all as we go around the island one way and then the other depending on which course they set us. But the beat to windward is long and drains us all as we push the boat as hard as she can go. Again we had serious problems with the boat and had to retire from one race as it was too dangerous for us to go on. On the last day of the regatta we threw a drinks party onboard and had about 30 people walking through the boat with glasses of wine or beer ! We were all so tired and felt a little embarressed as we had had no time to clean up the boat after a day on the water and really two weeks of race crew walking through with salt water and sunscreen hands, but non of this seem to concern those visiting who happily drank the beer and wine and ate the snacks provided before they all went to the prize giving. We cleaned up and dashed ashore for a crew dinner, and a quick drink to see friends before reminding ourselves that we had a another days racing to do unlike 80% of the fleet …

March 2014 was a crazy month, of sleep deprivation, huge highs and massive lows, adrenaline flowing through me at such a rate I had no control… but I pumped out bread everyday, made sandwiches and wraps, cakes, cookies and had also prepped up some meals that I gave to the race crew on their catamarans that they were all living on! It was certainly a busy month and when everyone left at the beginning of April it was all a bit of a shock of silence for us all, but we needed it! I turned the galley around for a delivery, helped the delivery chef stock up and flew to Singapore for 4 days and onto remote Sumbawa in Indonesia for 2 weeks, then up to Bali for a detox and downtime for me which was excellent before 6 days in Margaret River and back to Italy before Valencia where I met up with the boat again…

Indonesia, Sumbawa and Bali combined...April 2014

Indonesia, Sumbawa and Bali combined…April 2014

The summer of 2014 began in Valencia which was fabulous… I cycled each morning up the beach before cycling to Cabanyal market to stock up for the day, a month of cycling around one of my favourite Spanish towns. It might be the most modern but it is a great town to have a bike in to explore. The markets are also fabulous with lots of local fresh produce and I have been invited out to one of the vegetable growers farm next time I am in town which I cannot wait to visit. Valencia has so much agriculture so close to it,  you only need to drive 10mins out of town and there are olive trees, vines, row and rows of lettuces, or carrots, cabbages, and then just south the rice fields for the paella rice, and of course the orange groves for miles and miles. I was able to find my elderflower trees to make copious quantities of elderflower cordial which were snapped up by plenty of those who adore the cordial, expats living in Valencia !

A few weekends away were amazing and just what I needed, before we started to set the boat back up to race in Palma in the middle of June ! Yup our first stint of this summer was a regatta which of course I cannot complain about as I thrive on them so after a month or so in Valencia we moved to Palma where we took part in the Superyacht Cup and managed to do quite well even though we had to jury rig our main sheet ! Having not been to Palma for 2 years it was good to get back and see friends, work with provisioners I had not seen in ages, go back to bakeries I like to use, or the florist, fruit and vegetable stalls at the market and of course always find new places to go to such as some great restaurants which we will be going back to at some later date…

We left Palma and sailed back to our home port well kind of home port only because we have a container there and spend winters there. Catching yellowfin tuna on our deckhands birthday was fun, and made his day especially as I think he was missing his family friends and the pub at this stage ! Well he is only 20…

Our summer then started with cruising after a few weeks fixing up the boat after the regatta, and this summers itinerary is mainly cruising in Italian waters which suits me fine… plenty of tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, courgettes, aubergines, stone fruit, fish, hams, wonderful cheeses and more and now whilst we are anchored off Sardegna waiting for the owners to come back I go up to the markets again as much as I can…

2013 cruising season was one of markets, coastlines of islands and heat…

It began in Italy rebuilding the boat after a yard period, a quick workshop in Tuscany, a regatta then to the islands south Sicilia and onto Croatia, to the mainland in Italy down to Montenegro, and then Greece… Oh my Greece it was so good to be back there for the later half of the season, well July onwards. I can never complain of being in Greece, mind you I can say that about Italy and Spain also. My 3 favourite countries in Europe, all individual in their own ways but oh so similar in others ! It was a good season with plenty of traveling and different cultures to enjoy. The islands in Greece were as always great, the white and blue theme is spectacular against the blue of the Aegean and the blue skies. It was good to be with crew that had not experienced that part of the world before so they were able to enjoy the simplicity of life over there. It was also good to go back to my old home, Rhodes where my Greek family have a wonderful fish taverna. I used to help out there and learnt so much about Greek food, the history of Rhodes, the way the locals ate from the land during the wars, which is so interesting and so good to know. I wish I had it all written down and maybe one day I will.  Last year I went back into the BBQ area and helped cook the fish for a party of 80 that came in for a special dinner one night. It was great and always brings back memories of years ago when I was in their regularly helping out. It is now good to see the young boys in the family help out their grandfather, learning how to clean the fish properly, how to BBQ the fish, learning how to prep up their mothers famous desserts, or watch how they cook the shrimps, mussels. One of the four boys will surely become a chef and take over the restaurant !

But those 3 countries, Greece, Italy and Spain all instill a happiness inside me that is hard to describe with their  smells, senses, tastes, noises, their colours, the land, the turquoise seas around them. They have so much to give via their lands, via their people and their food yet being the oldest of our European countries they appear to falter at the realism of what the world is today and have sadly struggled with the crisis. However saying that they are surviving, people are finding new ways and they are becoming more self sufficient in many ways. The markets move me each time I visit them where ever I am. I am a market freak… having to find the local ones where ever I am making sure I am there on the day to explore what goodies they have to sell. It means the freshest of foods, the foods that are in season, not the ones flown in refrigerated containers, no the foods that are ripened by the sun. The foods that actually have flavour that you can actually close you eyes and bite into and know exactly what it is … To me this is so important to be able to have that first taste in my mouth as I bite into say a nectarine, a plum, cherry tomato, cucumber… It does not matter that the fruit or the vegetable might be mishapened, or small at least they are from the place I am buying them and they have the flavour I am looking for.

Anchored off Portisco, Costa Smeralda I have my granny trolly ready and bags as on Thursdays I go ashore to the market in San Panteleo , this week excited at the thought as I have not been up there for almost 18mths. I have to get up there before 9am as the parking becomes chaotic with people coming to visit not only the fruit and veggie section, the deli stalls, the nougat man but also the hippie stands…

San Pantaleo market, local strawberries and blackberries

San Pantaleo market, local strawberries and blackberries

It was chaotic, so full of people it was hard to walk around all because we were a little late, due to not finding our new rent a car ! oh well there is next week but I cannot complain as we cam away with a basket of figs, tiny cherry tomatoes, wild boar loin, great local pecorino, local strawberries and much more.

Then on to Olbia market on Saturday mornings, which can be very busy so again I hope to get in their early so I can park close to the market area. This market is full of local fruit and vegtables, wonderful meats and cheese stalls, also selling local olives, oils, honey, local nougat, one man just selling figs and garlic and then there are the clothing stalls, the kitchen wear stalls and the odd stalls selling all sorts of things. This week I managed to go to Olbia on my own and in my own time so had no rushing around trying to purchase food for the boat, it was more strolling through the market trying to find the people I used to buy from, and looking at the produce available, talking to the stallholders, finding new bio cheeses, or grapes. It was certainly less of a fruit and vegetable market this time, but lets hope it grows again after the summer craziness of tourism dies off a bit and people need to eat, rather than eating little to look good on the beach ! I had a wonderful time wandering around slowly absorbing what was on offer and what people were buying as it is always interesting to watch the locals buy. They only buy for a few people and maybe only for a few days, unlike when I shop and buy heaps. I am sure I am looked at strangely at times as I buy kilos of fruit and vegetables, hardly the amount for a normal household and then can barely lift the bags. One stallholder asked me why I was so interested in taking photos of his cheese, and I told him about blogging and sending the photos to family and friends telling them about this wonderful stall full of pecornio, some bio some regular and how it was fun to listen to the people and hear what they are going to do with their cheese, or as on other stands listening to what they would do with the fruit and vegetables… It is such a great way to shop and one I hate to miss where ever I am. It is so much better than just doing the normal supermarket run where the fresh foods have generally traveled for miles and always in refrigerated containers…

My bags are taken into the tender and I am driven back to the boat where I unload them and start to think of things I will make with the foods I have just bought. It is always a fun part of the day after the market deciding on what to give the crew or guests… They need to taste the cheeses and meats I have bought, the local sardinian bread that is so thin and crispy flavoured with rosemary or chilli. The olives, which sadly none of them are really interested in ! I have a few days to enjoy the foods that are now back with me onboard until I venture out back up to San Pantaleo next week and this time get there earlier so I can get the best of the best as well as be able to take a few pictures without the crowds shadowing me.

Olbia market... Pecorino and more

Olbia market… Pecorino and more

Olbia market wild boar meat selection

Olbia market wild boar meat selection

Travel, cruising, cooking