Photo: tonibduguid, Flickr
Participants in North Carolina's Museum of the Albermarle's "Dine With a Pirate" program this weekend will have the opportunity to feast on hot dog telescopes and golden chicken nuggets in the company of Blackbeard impersonators. But what might aspiring buccaneers who want to dine like a pirate eat?
Pirate foodways aren't particularly well documented, partly because most serious academics aren't too keen on high seas crimes (A spokesman for Mystic Seaport, which bills itself as "The Museum of America and the Sea," says institutional policy prohibits its employees from commenting on piracy. "Have you tried Google?," he asks.)
Still, David Moore, curator of nautical archaeology at the North Carolina Maritime Museum, says it's fair to assume the pirates who terrorized the Atlantic Coast probably ate "pretty much everything that everyone else ate." As Moore explains, the parasitic nature of the pirate profession meant its members typically subsisted on whatever they found in the holds of the ships they hijacked.
"You read in Robert Louis Stevenson that pirates ate a specific concoction, but we have to use our common sense," Moore says. "They were grabbing victuals: Salted pork, salted beef. Certainly they were eating a lot of turtle."
Pirate ships typically had massive crews, so cooks likely used an ingredient-stretching technique familiar to patrons of school cafeterias and camp mess halls: They made stew.
"They'd throw just about anything in there," Moore says.
Since fresh vegetables were scarce, savvy pirates lurked at ports where they could capture just-stocked ships on their way out to sea. If the pirates got lucky, the target vessel might be carrying casks of Madeira or rum for trade.
"Any time they could find large barrels of alcohol, that was time for a party,' Moore says.