Written by Leslie Taylor
KETCHIKAN, Alaska — LaDonna Gundersen has spent every summer for the past two decades working side by side with her husband Ole on the LaDonna Rose, their 32-foot commercial salmon fishing boat based in Ketchikan in Southeast Alaska. This month she is releasing her third cookbook, My Tiny Alaskan Oven. The tiny oven of the title refers to the 18 x 21 inch diesel oil stove on the boat and its tiny 'easy bake oven' which is only big enough for an 11 x 7-inch pan, a situation familiar to many boaters. When at sea LaDonna refuses to serve 'heat and eat' pre-prepared meals. Over the years she's developed a repertoire of quick-to-fix recipes using easy-to-find ingredients that don't sacrifice flavor. These form the basis of her cookbooks.
When the Gundersens first bought the boat, LaDonna started out by seeking advice from other fisherman on how to use the tiny stove effectively and was generally told that the stove was strictly used for boiling water for coffee and keeping the cabin warm. One person went so far as to suggest that she should not be in the cabin making homemade meals, but should instead install a microwave and eat canned foods so that she would have more time to be on deck with her husband. Not what she wanted to hear or how she wanted to eat, she set out to master the stove and create a repertoire of inventive and quick and easy-to-prepare dishes. Frequent requests from others to share her delicious, boat-friendly recipes lead to the idea of publishing cookbooks. The recipes she shares in all her cookbooks are the same recipes she created onboard and prepares regularly with her tiny Alaskan stove and oven during the fishing season. She also cooks them in their kitchen at home during the winter.
"There are no supermarkets at sea and depending on the tides and the fish, I may have very little time to fix a meal," says LaDonna. "But just because we're on a boat doesn't mean we have to sacrifice taste or quality. I have to plan our meals and make the most out of every single ingredient that is available to me, but a little creativity and planning ahead is all it takes to have plenty of tasty meals."
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