How was food prepared on ships between the 16th and 18th centuries?

The 16th to 18th centuries were an influential period for the maritime industry. During this time, sailors were at the forefront of exploration and cargo transport, traveling vast distances and encountering all manner of new cultures and environments.

Life onboard a ship during this period was grueling, and one of the most challenging aspects was preparing meals for the crew. Due to the lack of modern amenities, food was often not preserved for long periods, and cooking equipment was inadequate, making the task much more challenging.

Despite these challenges, however, food was a non-negotiable requirement for the crew, and several techniques were used to prepare meals on ships. Salted meats such as pork and beef were prevalent and were used to provide protein and nutrients for the sailors. These meats were cured with salt and left to dry in the sun, making them last longer while retaining their nutritional content.

Fish was also an essential part of the sailor’s diet, sometimes caught fresh from the sea, and sometimes preserved using salt or smoke. Seafood was also scarce and was only consumed in moderation.

Bread was a staple on every ship, and it was often baked on-board using what was known as a mess deck oven. This oven, which was made from brick, was built into the deck and heated using hot coals. It was fired up once or twice a week, and the crew would have to bake a week’s worth of bread at a go.

Cooking was often done using open fires, and the food was usually boiled or stewed in large pots, which were placed over the flames. Vegetables were often preserved in barrels, and salt was added to keep them from spoiling.

Finally, the crew also had to contend with the problem of fresh water, which often became scarce on long voyages. To this end, they would collect rainwater, which would then be stored in barrels and guarded carefully.

In summary, the process of preparing meals on ships between the 16th and 18th centuries was challenging and required immense creativity and ingenuity. The sailors had to make do with the limited resources they had available and find ways to preserve food for long periods. Nonetheless, they were able to keep themselves fed and nourished, often working long hours under tough conditions, which is a testament to their will and determination.

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