I’ve been volunteering with Greenpeace Malaysia for the past couple of years, so for the NGO to approach me in April 2018 to see how we could collaborate on an upcoming arrival of the Rainbow Warrior on Malaysian shores, I couldn’t contain my excitement. The ship has quite a legacy, having been bombed before to stop its open-water campaigning activities and gone through two incarnations.
I spontaneously threw on the table the idea of cooking for the 30-strong crew, expecting it to need some kind of consideration and internal discussion. Instead, I was almost given an instant green light.
The first thing I knew I wanted was to serve Nasi Lemak with Rendang, which reflects the beautiful array of flavours that Malaysian cuisine has to offer.
The menu was:
Mild Tempeh Rendang
Coconut Rice with Fresh Cucumber Slices and Roasted Peanuts
Nyonya Acar (Pickled vegetables)
Sambal Belacan with Textured Soy Protein
Seaweed Crackers (to replace anchovies)
Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce
Butterfly Pea Lemongrass Pandan Tea with Lime
Having never cooked for more than seven people until now, this was going to be one of my biggest cooking projects yet. And when there’s only one person involved, cooking for 30 people is certainly not meant for those with little stamina!
Because of the limited time I was delegated in the actual ship kitchen (called the Galley), a lot of the food was prepared the day before. The rice, rendang and tea were to be prepared on the day itself.
On a fateful Sunday on 3rd June 2018, I arrived on the breathtaking deck of the Rainbow Warrior. On the ferry that would take us to the ship, I cried. Seeing the Warrior in real life is such a different feeling from seeing it in a picture or documentary. It was a moment of coming full circle after a long personal journey of resilience, honesty and truth. My heart lead me here.
In the ship kitchen (galley), had the help of Willie, the generous resident chef who made spectacular food himself. He showed me around the galley and was there for the entire three hours of cooking, making sure that I had everything I needed, and even saved the food on more than one occasion (the rice would have been severely under-cooked had it not been for his intervention!).
The food was to be served as an in-between of lunch and dinner, but there was enough food for Willie to not need to cook dinner. Apart from the crew, it also fed hungry volunteers after a long day of coordinating public ship tours, and Captain Hetty, who had arrived in the evening from Amsterdam to change hands with Captain Pete, whom she rotates duties with every three months. Captain Hetty personally approached me to convey her thanks for the wonderful meal, especially after such long travels to get to the boat. Everyone who got to taste the meal was over the moon about it. To see gratitude coming back from an expression of gratitude, made life quite perfect for a moment.
Willie explained that the crew would be vegetarian 5 days of the week. A sixth day would feature fish, and the last day meat. There was only one fully vegan crew member. Her name was Charlie, and she absolutely loved the ice cream I prepared. Naturally, we hit it off too.
The following days, I got to return to the ship to experience the full tour alongside other members of my eco-conscious collective The Green Guerrilla: Melissa and Benny, and moderate a forum on Single-Use Plastic.
The entire Rainbow Warrior experience was an empowering one. It showed me that one person with a dream can do amazing things, but many people with a united dream can truly change the world.
Thank you to the resident chef Willie for being a galley angel, Angus Tan for taking all of the wonderful footage seen in the video, Leana of Suppagood for the support and extra hands, and Greenpeace Malaysia for the support and golden opportunity to celebrate the world-famous flavours of Malaysian food – vegan style! – on board this magnificent little ship that’s creating waves in more ways than one.