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Old 06-03-2016, 09:37 PM
R. Dale Flick R. Dale Flick is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Posts: 1,573

*DELTA QUEEN anniversary/Steamboat food*
Steamboating colleagues:
Thanks, Jim, for your vivid memories of food offered on the DELTA QUEEN in earlier years as many of us knew it. A far cry from what later fans experienced under new management. Again, YOU were then with many of us here NOW. We're also now celebrating the completion, delivery of the DELTA QUEEN from her builders in Stockton, California to her owners, the 'California Transportation Company' in San Francisco. My recrods here state the boat was "Given farewell" from Stockton on May 24, 1927 for several days of "tests" before entered into service. Both the DK/DQ termed the "million dollar boats" then costing $875,000 each at a time when Capt. Fred Way wrote " the late period when packetboating was in the hands of the undertaker." The fact they were even built at all a miracle considering the financial issues the C.T. Co. faced in issuing "$650,00 in bonds and $875,000 to pay off its debts." I have in my family files stock certificates issued then.

Capt. Tom Greene's rule on his company boats was good food always "with hot food hot, cold food cold." Jim is correct on the food offered to passengers and that to the crew. Crew food often considered a favorite by both white and black veteran crew members and officers. In even earlier days my dad recalled the crew rousters eating on tin pans with just a spoon--no knife or fork. It was good, solid, well prepared food with no dramatic frills, ceremony. Many passengers new to the boat imagined the glory of foods reputed to have been offered on the big, brag cotton packets in days of yore. Who here remembers the fine steaks, salads, cornbread, hushpuppies, fresh vegetables bought along the way, prime beef rib, fried chicken, chess pie, rice pudding, bread pudding whipped up by steward Gallager and chef Hicks in their time? Farmers sold vegetables, corn, fruit in season along the way that was cleaned, snapped, shucked by the crew sitting on the boat's bow. For years all breads, rolls were made aboard. Ed Gallagher, after lunch, would seek a deck chair on the stern of the DQ to catch some winks before prepping the dinner. Many of us walked by letting him rest in peace for an hour or so.

Ed Gallager, Chef Hicks worked like dogs long hours down in that lower 'cook house' under working conditions that would be condemmed today. So let's cut the 'romance' about life on a steamboat for the crew. The home office on the GREENE LINE wharfboat counted pennies to make sure they could afford to purchase the prime rib beef they needed. Again, the Greene family for years practiced MBWA--Mangaement by walking around. That meant watching all the food bills, lifting cooking pot lids, opening ovens, talking with crew and passengers. In later years new company ownership fell to ignoring dollars to save pennies. Another observer noted, "There was a big SYSCO food truck meeting us at every landing."

Betty Blake, Bill Muster hit on a plan to have so called gourmet meals prepared, shipped to be thawed, cooked by microwave supplemented with fresh offerings aboard. That didn't last long. 'Fads' in food tastes, cullinary arts came and went with the boat. Remember the days when foods were heavy on Cajun recipes? Betty herself favored southern foods with her eggs based in fat sunny side up with lots of bacon, rolls and butter as I recall. Capt. Wagner liked fried green tomatoes that once gave him a case of indegestion that laid him low. One Purser of the day known to have consumed four steaks at one sitting. Many very sophisticated travelers at first were dismayed with the limited offerings until they sat down and bellied up. From then on they were hooked. Early travel writers commented on being disappointed with the limited menu but raved over what the old GREENE LINE produced on the DQ.

Steamboat food way back often good but could be deadly for the crew/officers on a daily basis in saturated fats, salt, lard, sugar. Old Jim Burns who built the DK/DQ avoided food on the boats as much as possible. His son, John Burns, told me here in my home he also cut back keeping a small crate of fresh fruits/vegetables under his boat bunk to eat raw. Often on steamboats a large can hung on the side of the cooking ranges so fats and drippings could be ladeled off, used for the next meal or the next day. Capt. Alan Bates commented, "They could make anything taste good with lots of lard, sugar and flour."

I think what many later DQ fans experienced a far cry from what some of us knew back then. It's possibly just 'time and place.' But, what do I know?

R. Dale Flick
Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati
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