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On our way to New York City: Diary of a Vegan Pirate Cook – 90 Meals and Counting

(photo by Sea Shepherd)

(photo by Sea Shepherd)

Australian activist Nicola Paris has been cooking vegan food for Sea Shepherd pirates on board the Steve Irwin for three Antarctic whale defense campaigns and much of the last two years. Her posts are written from the ship and transmitted on a delay.

April 15, 2010:

What has led to here…

So I just finished up with my third Antarctic campaign defending the whales aboard Sea Shepherd’s flagship, the Steve Irwin. This year’s Antarctic campaign was pretty successful, and full on, and tiring – and then we stopped in Hobart, Australia for just 10 days. And many of us who had been working nonstop for months, are now still on board and heading up to the Northern Hemisphere.

I am in the role of head cook for the 6 week transit – stepping in whilst our regular head cook Laura takes a break. So it’s all up to me… On the to do list: make 3 meals a day, plus fresh bread, plus afternoon tea and treats and dessert for 18 people, use all the fresh produce in the right order before it rots, get creative when we run out of fresh produce, don’t cut/grate/burn myself too many times a day on rocking seas, drive everyone insane with whatever cheesy music is coming out of my stereo (gotta dance and cook at the same time), keep some semblance of hygiene and order to the place, rotate the stock, ration out the treats… oh, and make sure the food keeps people happy and avoid a mutiny. What the bloody hell was I thinking?!

(photo at Pitcairn Island by Barbara Veiga / Sea Shepherd)

Some highlights so far…

We stopped in New Zealand for just over 24 hours to show our support for imprisoned Sea Shepherd Captain Pete Bethune. We had a lot of local supporters on board the ship for tours, and it’s always a great opportunity to put on some vegan food for our onshore helpers… it’s awesome when someone who thinks vegans subsist on carrot sticks and boiled cabbage actually try vegan food and realize: hey, it’s actually ok! One of Captain Watson’s favourite meals on board is pasta; TVP ‘meatballs’ with red sauce (recipe is below), so I made those, and some carrot cake. I had both meat eaters and Italians raving about the ‘meatballs’ and sauce and requesting the recipe. The secret ingredient: Vegemite!


You might be able to do Easter without church, but you certainly can’t do it without chocolate. In lieu of having any Easter eggs we improvised, and melted chocolate down into teaspoon and tablespoon measures then froze it – and stuck the two halves together. We also used the fingers of latex gloves to pour the chocolate into – worked well! We had an Easter egg hunt around the ship, as well as hot cross buns – just like home :)

I got all the crew to write down a list of their favourite foods, and here are some of the things off the list I have made so far:

Marinated tempeh burgers, pesto, smoothies… lotsa smoothies (the favourite so far is banana caramel/chocolate), pina colada, pizza, chilli beans/rice, spaghetti, pumpkin soup, potato salad with garlic mayo, lentil shepherd’s pie, sushi, fejoida, burritos, rice pudding, chocolate cake with soy cream, blueberry pancakes, lasagna, hot dogs, tomato soup, and polenta.

I’ve been keeping a bit of a food diary, so will write often until we get to New York – we are likely arriving late April… and I will be seeking donations of vegan food for the ship whilst we are there so any advice and suggestions, or recipes, can be forwarded (STRICTLY TEXT ONLY, NO ATTACHMENTS) to me on board at:

TVP ‘meatballs’ with red sauce recipe!

Make up a broth/stock to hydrate/soak the TVP in (Purchased at health food stores etc). Mine included vegan ‘beef’ stock and vegan gravy powder, BBQ sauce, a few tablespoons of vegemite (be careful – this was for a large amount though), mixed herbs (your basic green herbs – oregano, sage etc), salt and pepper.

Soak the TVP for long enough for it to take on the flavour properly (I cook to taste a lot) and so it’s just moist, not really wet.

Then, add grated carrot and finely minced onion, and I used besan (chick pea) flour to help hold it together, as well as breadcrumbs. You could also add other fresh herbs at this point if you have them.

You should have a mixture that is easily formed into balls, and sort of sticks together. I have the advantage of a deep fryer on the ship, so you can drop them in and they cook quickly (and hence hold their shape). It might be a bit harder to pan fry them.

Cheesy music collection for good galley dancing this week:

Fleetwood Mac
Burt Bacharach
Beastie Boys


  1. Comment by


    on #

    Is there a list somewhere of the food donations the ship is looking for?

  2. Comment by

    Jason Das

    on #

    The donations list is here: