Pirate ship in the fog

What Did Pirates Eat?

Tomorrow is International Talk Like a Pirate Day and many people around the world will be celebrating with friends and family. So, what do you serve to your pirate friends who stop by for a pint of grog?

Pirates went to sea for a long time and had a very hard time of it when it came to food. For the first couple of weeks there was meat, cheese, vegetables, eggs, and more. Chickens were kept for the eggs until they too were eaten. Cows were kept for the milk until the food supply was depleted and then they too were added to the table fare.

As the weeks and months went by, the food would spoil, rot, mold or go rancid.

Cooks would mask the taste of the rancid meats with plenty of herbs and spices. Vegetables and meat were usually pickled or salted to preserve the food. Ships on long voyages relied on biscuits, dried beans and salted beef to live.

For drinking, seamen chose beer or ale rather than water. Water did not last long on board before it turned slimy with green scum. A small amount of alcoholic spirits was sometimes added to a sailor’s water ration to kill the taste of the rancid water. This was called grog.

Rum, however, is the drink most associated with pirates as described in the book Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented molasses. Because it was inexpensive to produce, it was very popular in the Colonies as well as the Caribbean.

In the story Under the Black Ensign by L. Ron Hubbard, the marooned pirate Tom Bristol and Lady Jane breakfast on boucan.

Boucan is a French word for smoked meat that was slowly cured on a grate over a fire. Hunters on the island of Tortuga would dry their meat and sell it to ships captains. After a while these hunters became known as boucaniers (“barbecuers”).

The boucanier or buccaneers soon realized that the Spanish ships they were selling their wares to offered more source of wealth than the money they received for the cured meat. So the buccaneers turned pirate and took to the sea, attacking Spanish galleons and ships. English authors later used the same word to refer to pirates from the Caribbean area and, hence, “buccaneer” is now synonymous with pirate.

So, avast, me buckos, celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day like a real pirate would—and enjoy a hearty barbeque. Arr!