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September Feature :: Recipes and recollections from 40 years of feeding the Ship Ministry

Food is a key part to life on board the ships. With your home moving around every few weeks, getting food is not as easy as running to the grocery store. Ordered months in advance, much of the food arrives at the ship in containers, a day everyone on board looks forward to. This month’s feature of 30 recipes* and 10 recollections of culinary related events aims to reflect the challenges and the humour of living and feeding 100s of people at a time - sometimes while at sea.

We hope you enjoy this month’s feature and, as always, if you’ve spent time on board an OM ship, feel free to share your memories with us using the comments function below.

* These recipes are meant for catering purposes and cooking for large numbers of people. Please adjust the amounts in a recipe if you would like to try it for yourself.

Humble beginnings


Ebbo and Vera Buurma share 10 memories from
their years with the Ship Ministry for this feature.
“There wasn’t much joy associated with food on Logos – you had to eat to stay alive…” is how Ebbo Buurma (Netherlands) sums up his memories of food on OM’s first ship. Ebbo served as Director of Hotel and Catering Services for OM Ships for the past 30 years, before recently retiring and handing on the role.

Things were certainly basic back in those early days. The galley had an oil-fired stove ‘affectionately’ called ‘the dragon’ because as Ebbo says, “Every time it was started up it would fill the galley with smoke! Our first cook, a man called Knut from Denmark was the only person who could really handle it.” The galley also had a relatively small amount of working space, and only a limited range of pots and pans, so it was hardly surprising the menu wasn’t very adventurous.

“The first time we had a professional caterer looking after the steward services on board Logos, he started ‘budgeting’ food,” remembers Ebbo. If dessert was to be apples, then he would put out 130 apples for 130 people. “And if someone had the audacity to take more than one, someone else would have to go without!”


Corn Fritters

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Lancashire Hotpot

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Bread Pudding
For 100 people

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Culinary challenges

All the food was bought locally. Shipping containers of food to the ships only came much later after Ebbo and his wife Vera moved on shore with their two young sons. In 1971, shortly after the launch of Logos, the ship was in Lagos, Nigeria. “The steward at the time bought rice which was delivered in sacks to the quayside,” says Ebbo. “Some of them split, and rice that spilled out was just swept up and put into another sack. We had grit and all kinds of things in the rice after that. One person even lost a filling in one of their teeth!”

“When we arrived in India for the first time, we had to ‘India-ise’ to esteem our Indian brothers and sisters,” says Ebbo. “We had Indian brothers in the galley cooking so that Indian food could be served to the conference participants, and we all had to eat it as well of course.” It was the first experience of Indian food for many on board, and much spicier than the food most people were used to. Vera Buurma (Netherlands) takes up the story: “I was pregnant at the time, and I could just not get the Indian food down. I was feeling sick anyway, and curry was just too much!” Ebbo remembers coming for one meal and seeing his wife crying and crying—one of the few times he has ever seen her cry in all their years of married life. He pleaded with the chief steward and eventually managed to get some tinned food, and even an orange, for her.


Chili Con Carne

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Ceylonese Rice

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Seeing is believing

Food was often fairly sparse. But Ebbo remembers one occasion when the chief steward put on an elaborate buffet for Christmas day. Even the decorations were made of food, but that was certainly an exception to the rule. “That was also the day we went into dry dock. It was in Bombay [now Mumbai] in 1973!”

During that time in dry dock, Ebbo worked long hours in one of the ship’s ventilation rooms with Mike Poynor, one of the marine engineers on board who also served for decades with OM Ships. “We were working 16-18 hours a day, and when I went to ask the chief steward if we could have some food late in the evening, he refused,” explains Ebbo. “He only changed his mind when he realised how long we had been working.”


Quick Cake Like a Flash

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Onion Sambal
Asian chili-based sauce

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Highs and lows

Once the ship reached Malaysia and Singapore, the crew and staff discovered some of the many other wonderful examples of Asian cuisine. “The cook at the time wasn’t very imaginative,” remembers Ebbo. “But for some reason, she started putting coriander in EVERYTHING!”

There were also times when Ebbo remembers the food being very good. “We had a cook at one point called Karel Houtkamp from Holland,” says Ebbo. “He was was a ‘jack-of-all-trades’. He cooked very well, and he was also a barber. He would cut people’s hair in his spare time!”


Kim Chi
Korean delicacy

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Kachumbar
Parsi-Indian style onion salad

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Ametha Net Aloo Hin
Burmese beef and potato curry dish

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Stepping up

It was after sailing from Visakhapatnam in India in 1975 when Ebbo first got involved with the steward services on board Logos. “The chief steward had contracted diphtheria and we had to leave him behind for treatment,” Ebbo reflects. “When we reached Taiwan, George Miley [the ship’s director] was looking for someone to buy food, and I (working as George’s assistant at the time) offered to help.” He started visiting local markets and worked to buy fruit, vegetables, meat and so on.

A shipment of tinned spreadable meat products had been sent to the ship in one of the book containers. “The ship people were very excited about these ‘spreadables’, made with chicken, tuna and turkey…at first,” says Ebbo, “but it didn’t take too long, and everyone was totally fed up with them.” In Korea, Ebbo was working with a ship chandler to buy meat, and thought he could maybe do a deal. He offered the man the tinned meat products in exchange for frozen meat, fruit and vegetables for the ship, and in the end didn’t have to pay a penny! “George Miley was so impressed, he made me the Chief Steward,” says Ebbo.

Ebbo notes, “I wanted the chief steward job because I wanted the people on board who were working so hard to get a good meal.” But it didn’t always work out. “We had one cook who put a huge amount of noodles into one of the boilers all at once. We ended up with this soggy lump of tasteless ‘stuff’ which was served with some kind of nameless brown stew—horrible!”


Hungarian Goulash

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Pineapple Upside Down Cake

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Tasty Rice Casserole

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Time for change

From the very beginning of OM’s ship ministry, food was served at the tables. The same system was brought over from Logos to Doulos when the second ship was bought, and continued on for years. “Carrying large bowls of soup to put on the tables during rough voyages was terrible,” says Vera, “especially if you were feeling seasick yourself!” In Singapore in 1987, Ebbo decided it was time for change and bought tables to set up a buffet system in the dining room. “That didn’t go down well with some people at all,” remembers Ebbo. “They got really upset about it!” But the much more efficient buffet service was there to stay, and was introduced on Logos II from the beginning as well.


Zwieback
Sea sick bread

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Kalgoorlie Gold

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Recycling

A coffee bar was started on Doulos, selling sandwiches and other snacks as well as juice and, of course, coffee to the public, and this generated income that Ebbo “recycled” (as he puts it) for buying food for the ship’s company. By this time, he had contacts in many ports, and this paid off time after time. “When Logos II arrived in Buenos Aires in 1993, we realised that meat we had on board was starting to go off,” he recalls. Seeing the possibility that the situation could become a health hazard, Ebbo had to act quickly. “We got rid of it as quickly as possible, and my contacts in the city were able to deliver quality meat within a couple of hours!”

Another aspect of ‘recycling’ has been the ‘creative’ attempts to use up food left over from previous meals—a practice that quickly became known as ‘YMCA’ (yesterday’s meal cooked again!).


Brazilian Chicken
For 330 people

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Mulligatawny Soup

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Avocado Tomato Salad

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A new era

Even though he doesn’t come from a catering background himself (as ‘bosun’ he was in charge of the deck crew on Logos), Ebbo realised the important role that food can have in helping to keep people motivated. “We didn’t always have much in the way of resources, but the key was to make the best out of the ingredients you had,” he says. “But buying locally meant you never quite knew what you were going to get. It was a real challenge to maintain some kind of consistent quality.”

When the Buurma family moved to Germany at the end of 1981, Ebbo started working on sending supplies of frozen food in refrigerated containers from the Netherlands to the ships; a system that continues today. Among the many products were the now infamous ‘cold-cuts’ of various processed meats and cheese served at lunchtimes with salad—something everyone who has served on board since then will know very well!


Banana Bread
Inspired by the banana donation in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria - expand for story

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South Korean Bulgogy Beef

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Dampfnudeln
German specialty

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Donuts

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Kaiserschmarrn
Austrian specialty

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Papaya Salad

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One each

Another feature on board both Doulos and Logos II were the ‘one each’ signs that regularly appeared on the buffet, especially it seemed when there was something really good on offer. “I never wanted those,” exclaims Ebbo. “Those signs went against the grain of my whole philosophy!” Whenever he would visit a ship, Ebbo would make sure the signs would disappear. But in the following weeks or months, they were almost sure to come back out again at some point!

Peanut Soup (from Sierra Leone)

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Sweet and Sour

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Zopf
Swiss Sunday Bread - makes 14 braids

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A passion for food…and people


Andy West served with OM Ships for many years.
It was also during that Logos II visit to Buenos Aires in ‘93 that Ebbo realised he needed to find another chief cook. Volunteering on board at that time was an American lady called Joyce West. When she heard about it, she immediately suggested that Ebbo call her son Andy and challenge him to take on the role. Andy had met his wife Melody previously on Doulos, and to Ebbo’s delight, they accepted. “Some people just cook,” says Ebbo. “But there are some people who cook with all of their heart. Andy West is one of those people.” The West family served on board Logos II, then Doulos, and later Logos Hope, finishing a marathon commitment and returning to the USA in 2010.

Ebbo calls himself an “opportunist”. “I succeeded by making the most out of other people’s skill and knowledge,” he says, summing up his 30 years of responsibility for OM Ships’ steward services. “Cooking and catering was my hobby. If you can do your hobby, it never seems like work. I loved it! I’m also thrilled that I could hand over my role to Alex. He has a great team with fantastic facilities on board Logos Hope. We’ve come a long way from those early days on Logos!”

Alex Müller (Germany) has served on board Logos II, at the Ship Ministry office in Mosbach, and most recently on board Logos Hope with his wife and family, where he was responsible for the ship’s ‘Hotel and Catering Services’ functions, before returning to Mosbach to take up his new role earlier this year.


BBQ Pork Ribs
For 420 people

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Alpine Macaroni

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Bear Paws

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