June 5, 2014

Feeding a Man of the Sea

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Feeding a Man of the Sea

There's nothing like a coffee break with a sweet treat on the side, and things weren't so different centuries ago. Everyone loves to eat—stimulating breakfasts, comfort food after a hard day, and don't forget dessert. But what did historical men of the sea put in their bellies?

Through the years as I've researched the Age of Sail, I've been fascinated by what those courageous men were eating while far away from home. In my research, I've found wonderful details to add to my sea-themed adventures and romances, and a few recipes that needed to be tried out, too.

Most Age of Sail readers are familiar with hard tack. Seamen of every deck and vessel knew the traditional hard tack, or "weeviled biscuit." Hard tack was nothing more than a mixture of salt, flour, and water baked several times to dry it out enough to last for many months. The best hope to give it some flavor was to serve it with coffee or stew. Insects, especially weevils, always found their way into the stores, but the men were used to the extra "protein."

Sound terrible? There were other, more delectable items on the menu. Sailors maintained their diet from what the sea had to offer, especially when the standard goats, chickens, pigs, and other staples ran low.

They consumed whatever they could haul overboard, including dolphins and sharks and every kind of fish. Swordfish was a true delicacy, as was turtle which was stewed into the infamous turtle soup. Lower deckhands ate a steady diet of dried peas and oatmeal (or burgoo). The irreplaceable but tart lime was especially important to prevent scurvy, and notably, the grog was always a cherished event.

An officer's table, from the captain to the wardroom, was an entirely different dining experience. Officers dined on specially prepared fowl, pork, and seafood, along with their favorite dishes from home, including Spotted Dog and Plum Cake. To be invited to the officer's mess was an honor indeed.

If Age of Sail cuisine interests you, I highly recommend the wonderful companion to the Master and Commander series, Lobscouse and Spotted Dog by Grossman and Thomas. You may be surprised at the level of elegant dishes above the lower decks when men dined in wooden ships.    

Whatever was ladled into their mess kits, sailors learned to eat what the sea offered up and to appreciate the times of plenty.

Stay Balanced,
~Danielle Thorne

For an adventure featuring Age of Sail action and men of the sea, check out The Privateer at Desert Breeze Publishing or Amazon.com.


The reign of piracy is over in the Caribbean, or so it is believed, until diamonds are discovered in Brazil.

Despite the cover-up, Captain Julias Bertrand hears whispers. The Spanish guardacostas are dumping logbooks, and a new French pirate is on the prowl. Distracted by an avaricious woman he could never love, and the beautiful Kate O'Connell who doesn't need him, he tries to untangle the web of mysterious cargo someone in the New World wants to keep secret.

When Bertrand's pirating past returns with the explosive force of a sweeping broadside, he finds he must sacrifice everything his respectable life has brought him in order to save what matters most.

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