Report 26: In great demand – contact to the galley
Just behind cargo hold 2 and the forward edge of the mid-ship structure was the galley. The respective deck watch, consisting of beginners and experienced crew was only a few meters away from the galley. If they were not pulling the clew lines, buntlines, and braces or were rampaging in the masts, they had to stand on the second hatch. When neither the cook nor the cocks-mate (a butcher), or the other cocks-mate (a baker) guarded the room, something edible would quickly vanish. There were three access ways into the galley: two side doors on the left and right mid-ship corridor and three portholes overlooking hatch 2. An apple, two buns or a pudding for the captain were able to get lost occasionally.
During the cold and windy days, we have had since Bremen and despite our South course since noon yesterday in the Bay of Biscay, the galley was our territory during the night hours. Then the three cooks were gone and we were responsible for the boiling plate, which ranged from one wall to the other corridor wall and was heated by oil burners. It was warm, everyone wished to be here. Regularly we had to check whether the burner worked. Usually the baker baked rolls and bread in the early morning hours. In addition, there was always a kettle of 100 liters with water and lots of potpourris boiling on the stove to become soup. In the morning, it took hours of cooking and stirring the soup extensively, while in the left corner of the cook’s mouth there constantly hung one of his smouldering pipes.
Even on the last voyage some of the regular crew members had been criticizing that the soup often smelled like tobacco. How seriously this was meant, I do not know. Before the end of the last journey, the cook inquired about how the vegetable broth tasted today. “Very well,” he had received in reply. Soon the rumour was making the rounds that the exceptionally strong flavour of the soup was due to a seasoning ingredient, 11 pipes from the cook added to the cooking process for a few hours. On this trip nobody has yet bitched about the soup.
Sometimes the hot plate was used as a sporting field. It was either about loudness or velocity. Starting position was that we had an awful lot of cockroaches, also known as kitchen bugs, on board, especially in the galley. A real nuisance. There were only two things to do, to flatten them or having them participate in a sporting contest. This came about as follows: If during the night watches there was no work, some cockroaches were caught all around the galley .Two to four people would come in front of the stove and throw one after the other on a glowing spot. Whoever slammed the loudest throw was declared the winner. If they were allowed to run, the beasts – also called Bombay runners – they are considered the fastest crawling insects. Everyone took their turn. Perched on the edge of the stove, the roaches ran to the spot under the blazing oil flames, stupid critters. We just counted: one two, three … there was always a winner or a looser.
Apart from that, the galley is off limits for us. Neither with peeling potatoes nor with other efforts, did we have the opportunity to grab benefits. The cooking hands together with members of the regular crew and the seniors felt a lot more connected to that obligation. Nevertheless, there has been no reason to complain. We trainees are miles away from the life of starving men and will hopefully stay that way.