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A Well-Provisioned Ship

Tuesday, September 26, 207

Dockside, Henricus Historical Park

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

There is no faster way to make or break a voyage than by the quality of food provided to the crew. Though Captain John Smith was a soldier, he wrote one of the authoritative early 17th century treatises on life aboard English ships. In Sea Grammar (1627), he says:

“Men of all other professions in lightening, thunder, stormes, and tempests with raine and snow may shelter themselves in dry houses by good fires, but those are the chiefe times Sea-men must stand to their tackling, and attend with all diligence their greatest labour upon the deckes. Many suppose any thing is good enough to serve men at sea, and yet nothing sufficient for them ashore, either for their healthes, for their ease, or estates, or state; A Commander a Sea should do well to thinke the contrary. . .”

Poached salmon and summer succotash

Poached salmon and summer succotash

Smith goes on to list many of the foods he deems most necessary for a well provisioned ship – wheat flour, rice, currants, prunes, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, wine vinegar, oil, oatmeal, bacon, dried Neat’s tongue, leg of mutton minced and stewed, butter, the juice of lemons for the scurvy, the best waters, aquavit, small beer, and Flapjacks. He mentions fish, salt beef, pork, and peas as being common fair. While this diet would have sustained men on a long voyage, only the exotic foods they picked up on their island stops – pineapples, tortoises, and iguanas – would likely have excited their taste buds.

Nothing but crumbs

Nothing but crumbs.

On our recreated Godspeed, we are fortunate to have several excellent cooks. Given the schedule and number of crew, we often pre-prepare some meals. Shepard’s pie, chili, and beef stew have all been made from scratch and frozen for this three-week voyage. While in ports, we will occasionally order meals locally, or visit a local restaurant. But, we all enjoy the challenge and friendly competition that arises from preparing meals ourselves. No one will argue that our captain is hands-down the best cook aboard. His poached salmon and summer succotash last night was a culinary art work! And, all of us will agree it is far better than dried Neat’s tongue!


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