Sailing with Charlie: The Spice of Life

Sugar and spice and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of
Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre

We’ve all heard the refrain ‘Sugar and spice and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of. Slugs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails, that’s what little boys are made of.’  Discrimination was unheard of in the 19th Century… 

Spices – yum. They are what make our food taste great. The Caribbean is blessed with a climate and verdant islands that support the growth of many herbs and spices. Grenada is the region’s spice island and some of its offerings include nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, allspice, bay leaf, ginger, chili and pepper. Those spices that make up curry powder and are not grown in the region are imported into Trinidad and Guyana where a large population of the people has Indian heritage. These nations have retail shops dedicated to spices. You can buy various flavors of curry powder or buy the ingredients to make your own.

Sailors have always been an independent lot – it’s a necessity for the cruising lifestyle; after all, there are no plumbers at sea.

The point is you have to be conversant with all aspects of life – from mechanics, electronics and astronomy to cooking and medicine. And that goes for all other facets of life aboard:

  • If you can’t fix it make sure you have an alternative up your sleeve.
  • If your motor seizes up make sure you are able to sail into an anchorage.
  • If your electrical system burns out have a portable GPS and paper charts available.
  • If your food store is running low, get the fishing gear out. 
Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre

If your food supply has dwindled to spam and corned beef and your flour or oatmeal is riddled with weevils then a curry might be the answer.

Curry has been used for centuries, not only because it enhances a delicious meal but also it can mask the flavor of questionable freshness of fish and meat. It is also great in hot weather; it makes you sweat, which in turn cools you down.

Charlie always has a large variety of spices aboard and he stores them in airtight jars. If possible, buy your spices whole rather than ground for the best flavor. This includes peppercorns, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and cinnamon. This will also help in avoiding errors when you grab for a spice in the middle of preparing a special dish. Curry powder instead of cinnamon on stewed apple will get you no compliments from guests. It’s like when you reach for the sugar and sprinkle it on a dessert only to find out it’s salt. (tip: always use brown sugar).

Some twenty years ago a drug was developed named Spice. It’s not nice at all and makes time disappear, like temporarily dying. In the most miserable conditions of cold and wet a small dose can easily lose you 8 hours. If you are offered some, resist. And whatever you do, don’t be tempted to add any to food.  

If you’re in Trini or Grenada (the country even has a nutmeg on its national flag) for hurricane season, stock up on spices. A Pina Colada or Painkiller just isn’t the same without a sprinkling of nutmeg.

Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.