Pirates carried food and drinks on their ships. It was essential to carry food that would last for many days because their journeys took long. For instance, pirates that came from America to attack Muslims in the Indian Ocean would require food to last them for months. The pirates’ ships did not have complex preservation equipment, and hence they carried food and drinks that would not spoil within a short time.
Pirates were well organized and prepared for long voyages by packing enough food and drinks. Standard drinks for an extended stay in the sea include rum and grog. Foods such as meat, dried foods, and sea biscuits ensured that long voyages were possible.
Pirates used to drink rum
Rum was among the most popular drinks among the pirates. Rum was typical in pirate ships because other forms of alcoholic drinks such as ales would spoil when stored for a long time. There are several reasons why rum was standard in pirates’ ships.
- It did not turn bad – some pirate voyages required them to stay for a long time in the sea. A voyage taking up to a month required foods and drinks that would not turn bad in a short while. Rum was such a drink.
- It cheered up sailors – the journey through the sea was marked with various challenges. For instance, pirate ships would be hunted by the navy, the weather would be terrible and endanger the sailors’ lives, and robbing merchant ships were dangerous because most ships were prepared to fight. Due to such challenges, sailors in pirate ships needed rum to cheer them up.
- It kept men in control – leaders of pirate ships would often get challenges of resistance in leadership from the men in their ship. Providing rum would ensure that they had little time and energy to raise resistance.
- It was the only drink available – most of the drinks available turned bad during a long voyage. Even water would turn slimy and undrinkable after prolonged storage. In such cases, the only available drink for the pirates was rum.
What else did the pirates drink?
Pirates also consumed water, beer, milk, and grog. They enjoyed various drinks during the initial days of a pirate’s voyage. Most of the drinks could only last for a short time. The pirates enjoyed ale or beer during the first few weeks of their journey. Ale turned bad and was no longer drinkable after a few weeks.
Pirates also drank water at the beginning of their journey. Water would be stored in casks but would also last for a short time before turning slimy. However, the slimy water was not discarded; pirates turned it into grog by adding small quantities of strong alcohol. The alcohol would kill the slimy taste of the water.
Milk was also a drink that pirates enjoyed in the first few months of the journey. Pirates did not carry packed milk but carried milking cows on the ship. The cows would provide milk until their food and water were exhausted.
The extended stay in the sea made the beverages scarcer. For this reason, the pirates’ journey grew difficult. They had to endure rationing of drinks until they could replenish their stock on the mainland. Most pirates resorted to stealing food and drinks after capturing a merchant’s ship.
What did the pirates eat on the ship?
Pirates’ food can be divided into two categories:
- Food at the beginning of the voyage
- Food in the middle and end of a long voyage
(a) Food at the beginning of the journey
Food at the beginning of the journey included fruits, vegetables, cheese, eggs, milk, and meat
In the first few weeks of the pirates’ stay in the sea, they enjoyed fresh food. Fruits were common during this time, and pirates ensured to eat a lot.
Vegetables were also taken during the first few days of the journey. To ensure that they enjoyed the vegetables for a long while, they salted them. Although salting would preserve vegetables, it could not maintain their freshness for an extended period. Lack of fruits and vegetables was a common cause of malnutrition.
The milk and cheese were enjoyed as long as the milking cows in the pirates’ ships were alive. Some of the pirates’ ships could produce cheese from the milk obtained from the cows on board the ship. However, most pirates did not engage in lengthy cheese production processes and only enjoyed the cheese they brought at the beginning of their journey.
Eggs were a common source of protein in the pirates’ ships. Eggs taken at the beginning of the journey would last for a few weeks. However, the supply of eggs lasted a little longer because pirates’ ships carried poultry such as chicken and goose. However, the poultry in pirates’ ships would be slaughtered as soon as their feed was depleted.
Finally, meat was the type of food enjoyed for a long while in the sea. Meat taken from the mainland would be enjoyed in the first few weeks. They ensured that the meat lasted longer by preserving it using smoking, salting, and sun drying. Such meat would be taken even when it started to turn bad. The pirates used strong herbal spices to remove the rotting smell and taste in the meat. The meat was also obtained from animals such as cows and poultry on board the ship.
(b) food at the middle and end of a long voyage
Long voyages required food that would last for a longer time. The foods included dried peas, beans and lentils, and sea biscuits.
Dried foods could last the pirates’ ship in the sea for the entire period. They were among the only food available for pirates who spent a long time in the sea. Such foods would be stocked in large quantities.
Sea biscuits also lasted long and formed the last foods in a long voyage.
What else did the pirates Eat?
Pirates also ate sea turtles, mice, seabirds, and cats when faced with starvation. Additionally, they ate salmagundi (a mixture of vegetables) to prevent scurvy.
Pirates’ voyage and stay in the sea was challenging. There were significant challenges resulting from the lack of elaborate means of food preservation. At the beginning of the voyage, pirates ate highly perishable foods such as fruits, vegetables, cheese, milk, and meat. Long voyages demanded pirates to have dried foods such as pulses and dried biscuits. The most common drinks for long expeditions were rum and grog.