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Twenty-Eight Bottles Around the Bay: Ten Gourmet Dinners for People with No Time and No Space

by Margaret Sharpe

The Holy Grail of cooking is the sophisticated quick-fix meal. Sure, we may have refined tastes – we know the difference between tomalley and tamale – but rarely do we have the time or inclination to labour long in the kitchen. Everybody is looking for short cuts.

The principles of modern-day cooking, speed and ease, go doubly when preparing a meal in the galley of a sailboat. Conscious of the universal attraction to quick preparation times, Margaret Sharpe serves up a galley cookbook, Twenty-Eight Bottles Around the Bay, and subtitles it “Ten gourmet dinners for people with no time and no space.” Developed aboard Sharpe’s yacht while cruising around Georgian Bay, this slip of a book – under 100 pages – stores conveniently in a galley kitchen.

Sharpe’s four-course menus are ambitious and impressive: On the first night, wild mushroom soup is followed by salad with rose petals and dill cream; a filet of sole in tarragon butter and peppered strawberries with crème fraîche. The ingredient lists are surprisingly short, the methods often fairly simple. But these simplifications come at a cost – not least to your pocketbook. The ingredients, though there may be only a few, tend to be high-cost luxury items that are often quite perishable, despite the fact that these menus are intended to feed sailors on a 10-day cruise. And although each ingredient list on its own may be fairly short, the overall list of ingredients for the 10 menus demands a fair bit of storage space on a boat, where such space is at a premium. For instance, not including the 28 bottles of wine packed for the10-day trip, these menus require you to have nine different kinds of alcohol on hand for cooking purposes alone.

In particular, the Cooking Tips section buried at the back of the book has all sorts of useful tips and recipes for basic things such as crème gervaise or aioli or crepes, but unfortunately, there is nothing to direct the flummoxed reader to this section while attempting a smoked salmon cone with crème fraîche – crème fraîche? – and a frustrated novice is likely to give up on the recipe, not knowing how to make or acquire this mysterious French ingredient.

Nevertheless, the cookbook is filled with tips and short cuts that a time-pressed landlubber will find very useful – if the cook can find them.