Serving tasty morsels with an aperitif before an evening meal is an age-old European tradition. The Greeks delight diners with platters of meze, the French roll out trolleys of canapés, and in Spain, one feasts on tapas. On ocean crossings aboard Summer Love, our Monte Video 43, it was the tapas that kept my husband, Robb, and I going.
Some say that the term “happy hour” originated at sea in the 1920s as slang for the early evening time when off-duty sailors would gather to wrestle or box on long sea passages. The term was then borrowed during Prohibition and used as reference to the hour before dinner when alcohol was served illegally at speakeasies. Now, of course, it’s a worldwide custom everywhere from modern city bars to beachfront tiki huts.
On one passage from Brazil to Trinidad, a leg that took 11 long days, we dodged squalls and ducked cloudbursts all night, every night, without any sleep. There was nothing to be happy about. But when 1700 came, we’d boost morale by having an at-sea rendition of that enjoyable interlude: We called it “Appy” Hour, because the focus was more on the “apps” than the alcohol. On that passage, we looked forward all day to our tapas: I’d smear mustard on bread sticks and wrap with ham, or serve wedges of cheese with green fig preserve. If provisions were dwindling, I’d mash chickpeas with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice to have on toast. One afternoon, I could hardly contain my excitement. Conditions had improved, and Chaguaramas, Trinidad, was just around the corner. The Caribbean beckoned. I’d prepared one of our favorite tapas: shipboard antipasto, and it was ready. The white wine was cold. Everything was perfect. I selected some jazzy music and kept an eye on the time.
“Only five minutes until appy hour!” I shouted up to Robb at the helm.
“I’m afraid we’ll have to wait,” he replied.
“Wait?” I looked up to the sky for a clue. “Why?”
“We’ve just crossed a time zone. I’ve turned the clock back,” he said, grinning from ear to ear.
He won; we waited. It was a long hour, but it was worth it!
Today, with those squalls a distant memory and summer upon us, I’ve synchronized my watch with the ship’s clock. Her lines are tied fast. I’ve made a batch of antipasto and I’m ready for 1700. With a glass of wine and a smorgasbord in a jar, I’ll be happy—for at least an hour.
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups cauliflower, coarsely chopped
1 cup canned whole mushrooms,
1 cup green olives with pimento
1 cup black olives
1 cup sweet mixed pickles
1 cup palm or artichoke hearts
2 cups ketchup
1 can anchovy fillets (2 oz.), drained
1 can tuna (6 oz.), drained
Dash of Tabasco (optional)
Add olive oil to large pot. Coarsely chop cauliflower. Drain and chop next five ingredients. Combine in the large pot and simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add ketchup, anchovies, and tuna. Mix gently and simmer for another 5 minutes. Season with Tabasco. Allow to cool, then raise the gin pennant! Serve on bread, crackers, or melba toast. To store, divide into smaller portions, place in jars or Tupperware, and refrigerate. Use within two days, share with your friends (it’s a perfect potluck offering), or freeze for later use. Defrost in the refrigerator, drain off excess liquid, and mix thoroughly. Yields about 10 cups.
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