Kitchen Secrets

Thanksgiving at sea. The cooking — and cleanup — occurred well out of our view.

One of the many illusions — perhaps the biggest illusion — that a cruise offers is the constantly available food.  We’d wake up in the morning, walk up a short flight of stairs, and there the food was waiting for us, ready to be put on our plates by smiling servers.  And so it went all day.  I don’t think our species can get any further away from its hunter-gatherer roots than a couple of weeks on a cruise ship.

For the first couple of days at sea I tried to dupe myself into the notion that the meals I was being served was something out of Hogwarts, that there was some Albus Dumbledore in the main dining room to clap his hands for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, not to mention the desserts, from opera cake to Baked Alaska to Poire Belle Hélène,  to magically appear.  To cure myself of this, I eagerly stood in line to take a tour of the ship’s spotless kitchen, a large, windowless, clinical-looking space that snaked a path next to the main dining room on the seventh deck.  And here I saw first-hand the tremendous effort put in by the ship’s staff to bring the plates to our table.  The place seemed to operate like a Swiss watch: every meal, every garnish, every glass and fork and spoon, seemed broken down to its tiniest component.  If you ever find yourself on a cruise ship, then a tour of the kitchen is an absolute must — a feat of human ingenuity to create the most unnatural human eating environment.

Meals under construction.

Chocolate Eiffel Towers, also under construction.


Hobart mixer, presumably to help process some of the 2,700 lbs. of butter and margarine, 1,300 lbs. of sugar, and 2,900 lbs. of flour that the ship estimated was consumed each week.

Detail from a poster providing a visual aid for every meal served on the ship.

Flowers and shakers waiting to be used for stateroom service. Yes, the flowers are real.

The finished product (opera cake). I still find it hard to imagne how the staff made every single dish look like this one.







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