Jane Coxwell, author of the cookbook Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes (on sale today 5/14), has led a wonderfully itinerant life as a chef aboard various yachts for a decade. She currently works as chef aboard the Eos yacht, which sails for Diane von Furstenberg. In this guest blog post, Jane explains what it’s like being an avid reader and a book lover (and collector) when most of your life is spent far from home, and far from a bookstore.
Books of any kind are so special. They've always been a huge part of my life.
One of the things I'm most excited about when I settle down and have my own place on land is having all my books in one room. Right now they’re all over the world--in multiple storage units, in friends' basements, in the bilges of Eos, the yacht I work on. A few years ago I started a new habit: every time I bought a book, whether a cookbook, an autobiography, or even something instructional, I’ve written where and when I bought it, and so one day, when I do have all my books together, I'll be able to pull one from the shelf and it'll take me back to a particular place and time.
On board all the yachts I've worked on, including Eos, we have a crew mess. It's where we have meals and meetings, and when we don't have guests on board, it's also where we come together to relax. In the crew mess we have a shelf of books that people have read and left for others, which is great, because we aren't often in places where one would be able to find an English bookstore, or even have an actual address to have books delivered if we bought them online.
Our Internet is often sketchy, especially when we’re doing ocean or sea crossings from one land to the next. So this little collection of books is great. Reading is the perfect escape on longer crossings. Some people set up hammocks on deck and read there, and some use their cabins.
A lot of my recipes are inspired by places I've traveled, such as Southeast Asia, Italy, and South America, and sometimes I like to tie my reading to wherever I am in the world. I received Just Kids by Patti Smith as we were making our way from the Caribbean to New York, and it was the perfect book to get me excited about seeing New York again. I loved it!
Another book that stands out to me was from fairly early in my yachting career when I spent some time off the coast of Corfu on a beautiful yacht called Paloma. Corfu was a beautiful and happy place, and I have such great memories of being there. After we left, my friend Tim gave me a copy of one of his favorite books, My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. Just writing this makes me want to find a copy of that book and read it again. It's really wonderful--funny, charming, and it captures Corfu really well.
I also read a lot of cookbooks, of course, and so it was important for me to include little stories for each recipe, whether about the person who made me think of the dish, or another association. For example, when I'm trying to make my fellow crewmates happy, I'll make them a Thai green curry with all the trimmings. Food is so much about the experience of sharing, so I wanted to share what the recipes mean to me.
more about Fresh Happy Tasty
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Recipe: Lamb and Quinoa Koftas
Recipe: Israeli Couscous with Shrimp and Zucchini
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