With my recent post on provisioning and my nifty Excel spreadsheets, you'd think I was the epitome of efficiency and always had exactly what I needed on the boat at any given time. Wrong! Invariably, when I'm looking for an ingredient that I'm sure is on the boat, it's actually back on the grocery store shelf where I pondered and pondered its purchase and decided not to buy it after all. Who needs tahini paste?
There's the other situation when though I plan for a couple weeks or more beyond our provisioning trips, we just use up more than anticipated or something I was counting on goes bad. I go into the larder and yikes! no corn, low on eggs, no butter, none of that special spice that makes everything taste good. This situation calls for drastic measures. It calls for imagination and creativity in the galley. It calls for AFS.
“AFS … hmm … what sort of abbreviation or acronym is that”, you're asking? It's not like a GPS or an AIS or even a VHF. AFS stands for Another F##$%#! Substitution. AFS is when you're missing three of the five ingredients from a recipe, but you decide to make it anyway. AFSs are common towards the end of a passage or the last days at a remote anchorage when you don't want to go back to land and you're willing to sacrifice “usual” for the more “unusual” outcomes in the galley.
Some substitutions are easy...white vinegar in place of an egg, pancake syrup in place of honey, canned or dried instead of fresh, walnuts instead of almonds. I'm talking a real substitution. I have a recipe for a Crab and Artichoke dip which we think is outstanding. Come to find out, if you don't have the crab NOR the artichoke, it still tastes okay or you can add mushrooms … assuming you have cream cheese (scrape off the blue, it's okay) and maybe some bread or crackers to put it on.
I have one of those Million Recipe software programs that allow you to enter the ingredients you have and it comes with a recipe that uses them. Unfortunately, when all you have are cans of stuff you've been avoiding eating, some moldy cheese, sauerkraut and a carrot, it's hard to come up with a reasonable recipe. David's fishing luck usually runs out about then, too. We make do.
Part of the challenge is making do with what you have and being happy with it instead of grousing about what you don't have. Certainly, with all the right ingredients, you can make most anything you want. It's the positive attitude and sense of ingenuity (and humor) that makes AFS cooking such an adventure.
On the other hand, I remember adding so much stuff to a tuna casserole (without the tuna) that I finally gave up and we pronounced it totally inedible. Peanut butter sandwiches that night! Sometimes the AFS approach just doesn't work, but when it does, I've got a whole new recipe.