An Essential Galley Read


February in Vancouver is frustrating for this Toronto-based Galley Guy. There are boats bobbing in the water, but no place to go. At home, shrinkwrap removes any temptation to sneak out for a cruise even although it looks so easy to cast off the lines, hoist a chute and take a run down English Bay.

Bob Stevenson from Desolation Yacht Charters is planning to get his boats ready for action by late February and Marla from Cooper Boating is busily filling their charter schedule. Any respectable Galley Guy just wants to be on a boat with either some old friends or soon-to-be new, good friends, enjoying humorous banter and finding the best wine or spirit to complement a hearty feast. There are great expectations for the up-coming season but, sadly, one very important person will not making the trip. Sadly, James Barber, The Urban Peasant passed away at the age of 84 in November 2007.

James, the Canadian cooking guru authored a Pacific Yachting’s column for several years. As a boater himself, James understood the spatial limitations of the galley and taught us how to be inventive and daring with food. Be creative, take chances, use what you have and “always lick the spoon.” His writing was light-hearted and he delighted his readers with simple and practical recipes.

James Barber was actually an integral ingredient in the launch of Canadian Yachting’s Galley Guys column. When we heard James Barber present at a recent Vancouver boat show, we recognized an opportunity to help inspire boaters improve their boating lifetsyle by encouraging them to entertain more, find short cuts to preparing great food and adjusting to the realities that a local store might be three days back and the dishwasher is again, a human being.

“The secret to cooking on boats is recognizing that the rules are different. You're not entertaining, you're not at home with unlimited supplies, but you've usually got a crew with an appetite. If you can regularly have supper in front of them less than 30 minutes after the anchor goes down, you'll be the most popular person on board.

“Forget Emeril, Martha and even Julia. Forget the gourmet magazines, your grandma's secret spaghetti sauce and the class you once took on making foie gras an essential part of your life. Remember that a boat galley is no place for flambé or consommés. You're not a chef, you're a cook. I've cooked strapped in on sailboats, commercial fish boats, working tugboats, and for two years on a 19' Lightning sailboat with a Primus and a leaky cockpit awning. They're all the same: not enough room, or pots, or spices, and always something missing.”

James Barber

Marmalade Magic

“Most times you haven’t got exactly what you need in a galley. If the recipe calls for sugar and all that you’ve got that’s sweet is a jar of marmalade try that instead. And it is great on hot cakes, French toast and porridge. Two large tablespoons of the same marmalade warmed in the frying pan for the last two minutes of frying chicken breasts makes a gorgeous sauce. The next time you’re cooking at home and your mind switches back to the boat (mucking about) mode, try a whiskey/marmalade sauce on lamb chops and add a couple of pinches of hot cayenne pepper to make it even better.

Get the best marmalade you can find, orange or ginger or lemon marmalade (read the label to check that fruit is a major ingredient), and reckon to use it all up on the weekend you but it.”

Excerpt from the new James Barber in the Galley cookbook recently published by Pacific Yachting now available from

By Greg Nicoll

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