Food & Wine

The Best Breakfast Option

28 May 2021By Rubi McGrory
Illustration by John Devolle

Written by

Rubi McGrory

Rubi McGrory has 25 years in yacht galleys and more than 150,000 miles at sea. Aside from culinary creations, she does art, design,  illustration, and curates custom tablescapes. Follow Rubi’s culinary shenanigans on Instagram @big.cookie.energy. www.rubistudios.com 

It’s easy to crank out five-star meals in a fancy superyacht galley.

You have something like acres of counter space, six reliable burners, two industrial dishwashers, and walk-in fridges and freezers while at anchor with zero-speed stabilizers.

Yay for you.

But let’s flip the script. Let’s say the yacht isn’t the biggest one in the boss’s fleet. Nor is it his fastest one. But it’s the biggest one that is also fast. In this case, I’m referring to a 73-foot sailboat with an indulgent luxury interior. But also, a lightweight racing interior. Let’s call the boat Mahogany.

Mahogany is a racer-cruiser. In her heyday, she ran a full-time yacht crew of six to eight who lived in a house ashore. Our summers were spent alternating between cruising the ports of New England and crushing the competition in offshore sailing races. Mahogany has two different interiors: the fancy-schmancy one for guests, and the lightweight but durable ones for races. Every cushion, every bunk, every floorboard, every locker could be either removed or switched out. This took a team of a dozen dayworkers about six days to unscrew teak panels and carry them up the dock to storage and switch out all of the sails and rigging. And another six days to put it back. We did it four times per summer.

When it came time to race, us paid crew were ancillary to the race crew. These self-important New York City guys convened several times a year to race the boss’s yachts up and down the Atlantic and Caribbean. My job was to keep them fed.

Egg sandwiches are always the best breakfast option, at sea or on land. They’re filling, portable, and handheld.

Not an easy task. I wasn’t plating tender baby greens for rich ladies lounging about in bikinis. No. I was feeding a team of men. Large men who expended thousands of calories throughout the course of the day and night cranking winches and hoisting sales. Twenty-six of them.

Yup, you read that right.

We had 26 grown-ass men working hard and needing at least three giant meals per day for at least three but as long as five days on a 73-foot sailboat.

And the boss was all about a steakhouse-style menu: lobster bisque and beef tenderloin. The galley could fit approximately one person and offered a small Force 10 gimballed oven with three burners and a microwave oven. On one of the races, the microwave quit early on. I was microwaving Spaghetti-O’s for the boss’s three sons who had joined us for the race. We caught some wind, heeled harder, upending the bowl, which sent sauce into the vent grid and adios little nuking device (also known as an important component of my dinner preparation method).

To further complicate the whole process, allow me to acquaint you with the particulars of offshore sailboat racing. Without getting all science-y and physics nerd on you, everything happens at an angle. In order to go as fast as possible, we must harness the wind and put it to work for us. This involves heeling over. A lot. As much as 20 degrees.

Also, that 20 degrees could shift from port to starboard several times throughout the course of a day. Or a meal. This means my center of gravity and the placement of everything in the galley has to switch quickly.

So, to recap. It’s me and 26 big hungry dudes and a smattering of kids on a 73-foot boat. They want high-end, hearty meals. It wasn’t uncommon for guys to ask me the dinner menu before tucking into their lunch. I perfected a system. The only prep I had to do underway was reheat food. All of my meals were made beforehand: steaks and sea bass portions were seared at high temp, spinach creamed, pasta cooked and sauced. (There’s no sous vide in these high seas capers.) The race crew was divided into two watches, so meal service was spaced out by 90 minutes. Even at only 13 plates per meal service, that’s still enough to overpower the small oven (and a chef whose bed was actually a wet sail).

The sandwich is served immediately before the yolk has a chance to firm up. As soon as the diner bites into the sandwich, the soft yolk explodes and squirts onto their shirt.

Breakfast was the only meal I fully prepped on board. Egg sandwiches are always the best breakfast option, at sea or on land. They offer everything: egg, cheese, bacon, bread, and whatever condiments pop your yolk, so to speak. They’re filling, portable, and handheld. Best of all, they’re relatively easy to make.

But also, they’re secretly adventurous.

In my attempt to pump out 13 egg sammies as quickly as possible, I stumbled upon what the British military call a “banjo.” The eggs sit in the hot pan only long enough for the whites to cook through, get a quick flip to cook the other side, then swoop onto buttered bread, bacon or ham, and a waiting slice of cheese. They get topped on another slice of buttered bread.

I’d like to point out here that there are those who use mayonnaise and a leaf of iceberg lettuce. Others argue the butter should be thick enough to leave tooth marks. The subreddits for such discussions are fierce, almost as contentious as whether or not banjo bread should be toasted.

The sandwich is served immediately before the yolk has a chance to firm up. As soon as the diner bites into the sandwich, the soft yolk explodes and squirts onto their shirt. According to etymologists, the diner then holds the sandwich aloft to prevent further drips in one hand while wiping their shirt furiously with the other — thus looking as though they’re playing an air banjo.

Every single egg sandwich that left that tiny galley popped its yolk at first bite. There were no banjo strummers, per se, but I saw a lot of yellow blobs on matching boat-issue jackets and rugby shirts. They stood out among myriad other stains like specks of last night’s dinner, streaked vomit from an arduous midnight watch, or drops of Pepto Bismol. More than once, I’ve been smiled at by a mouthful of teeth-stained pink from Pepto mushed in with a few days of unbrushed and unflossed foodstuffs.

This is the image I conjure when land-lubbers comment on how glamorous my yachting job must be.

Egg Banjo

For each serving:
> 1 egg
> 1 slice soft melting cheese (Meunster, Havarti, mild cheddar, American. Ew, no, not Swiss)
> 1 small portion cooked bacon or ham
> 2 slices of bread, 1 bagel, or English muffin (split) or one soft squishy soft bun (toasting optional)
> Spread of choice: butter or mayo
> Veggie oil
> Salt and pepper

iStock/LauriPatterson

Everyone loves egg sammies. You can bougie them up for your guests by serving them on your house-made brioche. While you heat a small nonstick skillet to medium-high, get the rest of your banjo prepped. Toast the bread if that’s your choice. Spread butter or mayo on bread or roll. Top bottom-half or roll or one slice of bread with meat, then cheese. 

In order for the cheese to melt, the egg must go straight on top of it.

Okay, now that your pan is hot, pour in a small glug of oil. Crack the egg into it. Season with salt and pepper. As soon as egg white sets, about one to two minutes, flip it. Cook until white sets, no globby raw egg whites — but keep that yolk runny. Slide it out of the pan and onto your prepped sandwich. Top with bread or bun top. Serve and eat immediately.

This article originally ran in the May 2021 issue of Dockwalk.

More from Dockwalk