Life on a tall ship, or any ship, revolves around the galley. But like the kitchen in a busy home, the galley is the domain of one person, the cook, who is nothing less than a dictator. Bill Penn knows this, and when he has a hankering to bake something good, he has to suck up to the cook aboard the brigantine Aganippe, which is sailing across the Arctic Ocean. In this excerpt from chapter 15 of my novel-in-progress Carbon Run, Bill attempts to persuade the ship’s cook to let him get creative.
“Let me make some, Cookie.” Bill Penn held out his hands in supplication in the Aganippe’s galley. “I’ve got a hankering.”
Cookie crossed her arms, frowning as if Bill had asked to drink the last of the vanilla extract, just to get at the alcohol. Bill didn’t want any such thing, but she was not one to let any crewman–not even the captain–mess up her galley. Her real name was Hiromi, but according to time-honored tradition, the crew called her “cookie,” or “cook.” To efficiently feed 55 hungry men and women, Cookie depended on order, a place for everything and everything in its place. Bill’s request was anathema. “Bill, I like you, but my galley is my castle, and I don’t want anyone rummaging around in it. What if you break something?”
“I know what I’m doing! I baked on the old Emperor Qin. I know the rule: leave it as you found it.” Bill grabbed a broom and swept. “I’ll clean the counters and the floor so well you could eat off them.”
Micah Panang, watching the conversation with a cup of black coffee in her hand, moved out of the way.
Cookie stood her ground. Her pursed lips were surrounded by puffy cheeks and underlined by a double chin. Nearby, her assistants George and Padma sliced vegetables for the evening mess.
“Listen, I know your schedule,” Bill said. “You and your helpers would like a good night’s sleep for once, eh?”
George and Padma glanced over to Bill, listening.
Bill continued, “I’ll take over their shift and yours on Sunday morning. Sleep in! Turn off the alarm! Get up at a civilized hour for once!”
Cookie softened. “Well, I have been a bit tired lately.”
“Of course, you have, cookie. We’ve all seen it.” Bill touched her arm.
Cookie brought herself up. “Wait a minute. Are you saying the food is…”
“No! No!” Bill realized his diplomatic error. “Everyone knows you’re the best cook in the Arctic! I’ve never had better, on any ship.”
Cookie blushed, despite her hard, leathery face. She’d been a topman herself, many years past, until a fall damaged her spine.
“I’m just saying everyone appreciates your hard work, and we all think you deserve a break. Right, Micah?”
“Yeah, everyone deserves a break.” She slurped her coffee and left the galley for the mess table.
“Cookie,” Bill said, “If I don’t leave the galley cleaner than when I started, you can have me keelhauled.”
“You’re just being silly now.” Cookie laughed.
Bill sensed victory. “Think about it. Mouth-watering Linzer tortes. They’ll be the best you’ve ever tasted.”
Cookie gave in. “All right. But only once! And I’ll be watching. I want this recipe you’re so worked up about.”
“Deal.” Bill extended his hand and Cookie shook it.
Have you ever baked Linzer tortes? How’d it go?