The winter storm that hit us enroute to Fakarava was so heavy duty that the local cargo ship had to change course and return to Tahiti, cancelling their weekly delivery to the atoll. Aboard Aldebaran, we were already short of food, having experienced some difficulties provisioning in the previous atoll. Even our onions were running out. So I advised Sabrina that we had a “Code Aluminum” on our hands: only canned food left! And worse, during her mom’s upcoming visit! Oh man, was I in trouble.
Undeniably, a “Code Aluminum” with Mom aboard is a major faux pas on part of the captain (me). Having good meals & fresh food is critical for enjoyment of life in close quarters (random trivia: they apparently have really good food on submarines). At this particular moment, food scarcity was an even greater stressor than normal. Sabrina had just spent 6 months working in California and had matured her already-keen preference for nutritious, wholesome food, into a downright infatuation with all that is “good for the body is good for the soul”. Frankly, that is one thing that California has in plenty: abundance of every green leafy vegetable under the sun, along with some of the world’s most creative health cuisines.
I am proud that over the years, our good ship has developed a certain renown for Gourmet meals — our crew always note they eat much better aboard than back home, or even in fancy restaurants. Indeed, the standard for culinary exploration on Aldebaran has always been high, emerging from our cooperative’s early days in the Channel Islands where everyone was assigned a meal or two, and tried to out-do the others with outlandish food productions. But heck, we were in the Tuamotus, land of food scarcity, not an ideal time for our Galley Goddess to develop a deep appreciation for Nutrition… or was it the perfect time? Things were about to get serious.
Fortunately for us mortals in need of rescue, when Sabrina gets a mission into her head, all sense of “reasonable-ness” is thrown out the window. She believes so intently that she’ll make it happen that somehow it all comes together — albeit at some super-woman levels of effort.
Thus Sabby and her mom Jackie came loaded from California with 75lbs each of United Airlines baggage, much of the contents being food products ranging from bags of nuts to even unlikely items like parmesan and goat cheese (!) The mother-daughter duo traveled around Moorea and Tahiti for a week, shlepping this overwhelming mass to different accommodations, while shuffling fridge space to keep things cold.
Before their flight to Fakarava — to meet me aboard Aldebaran — came the crux of the sherpa effort: Sabrina and Jackie went to Carrefour (the French mega-grocery store chain) and purchased another 4 large boxes of fresh veggies and fruit, then took all their boxes and baggage to the Air Tahiti terminal. With a regal wave of the hand, Sabrina declared: “I want to send all this to Fakarava,” she told the wide eyed Air Tahiti rep. She suddenly noticed some kale and apples had fallen out of their bags, but coolly stuffed them back into their respective homes. She proceeded to pay the bill; $120 later, the 6 boxes of food were in the Cargo section of Air Tahiti, enroute to Fakarava, along with overweight charges for checked bags.
This, my friends, is how we began a new chapter in Aldebaran’s ability to source ingredients in distant atolls… Finding a way to get good ingredients (more affordably) now became our mission. After all, we have a LOT of great meals to re-create from the previous few years, and can’t just eat canned food! You remember a few dishes you enjoyed on Aldebaran? Share below in the comments any memorable dishes you had aboard the good ship.