Friday, November 17

A Recipe for Chicken Pye

A reply to a mail packet letter received by HMS ACASTA while pressing hands at the Fair at New Boston. By the ship's cook to Widow Smith of the Penny Whistel Tavern. (A letter that was forwarded to the new ship's cook when it was found to be undeliverable to the ship's Steward in last year's mail packet)
M. Schwendau, Ship's Cook

Widow Smith
Penny Whistel Tavern

Good Widow Smith,

I received your letter while ashore at New Boston and was delighted in having your recipe for Chicken Pye. I recall the Captain’s fondness of the dish and hearten that your shared such a prize fare with me. I will have to indulge in making it soon for the Captain's table after we are stowed a sail. It will be a grand addition to table for the officers. Such a noble pye will be an honor at the table. I truly give you thanks for the kind offer of your dish to entrust to my recipe book. 

While ashore I messed the Captain on a very fine Virginia ham. It reminded me of the hams from the Lancaster area. They are peculiar in the making of them here in the America’s, they have the luxury of using sugar in the cure. Much like the Gloster hams that are cured in molasses. It was truly a fine ham, so much so in size. The Captain shared it with the hands ashore on the press. We also enjoyed melons and the first harvest of apples. I do believe the men were much impressed with fare, as it was not just iron rations. Unfortunately the green's grociers offerings were sparse in their offer. Only offering carrots and onions at this time. 

I look forward to seeing you in the Penny Whistel again and telling of the new foods I have discovered here in the Americas. 

Your Most Humble Servant,

Michael Schwendau

Thursday, November 16

How to Press a Cook

As written by the Acasta's cook (and real life 5-Star chef), Mr. M. Schwendau

July 18, '15

I must recount the experience today of preparing a grand meal for Captain Fryman, the officers and a few sailors of HMS ACASTA. They came ashore to celebrate wonderful news from the Admiralty they have been ordered home after this terrible war with those Yankee’s in America. Oh, how the spirits were high, the cheer in which they roamed with. Shortly after the bakers boy dropped off the day’s peel. I was asked by the Captain his self to prepare the best of foods we had in the larder, spare no expenses and no holding a quarter back! he said. At the time we had a few scrawny hens, a freshly butchered hog, and odd bits from the garden. With cheer my response was gracious and eager. I told him, he and his crew would feel no pains or have want when they were done, or else you can put me into a brine barrel. He bellowed with a deep laugh and sortied off from my kitchen at the house. As these men were full of cheer, I had to prepare something grand as I could so I laid in my larders stocks and put to it. The master of the house did tell me the Captain was his guest and to fill any orders he gave as if his own words, by his own mouth.

I first mixed a Lemon Corn meal pudding and slowly steamed it for a pudding, when done off the coals, I would give it hearty doses of brandy and serve it with strawberries from the milking pasture. Next, I dash and cleaned the hens. They were past laying and other than being a nuisance to me, I was glad to rid them to these fine men of the crew. I dressed them and even took time to candle off the bits of feather that didn’t come with the plucking. I would rub these down with herbs from the cutting garden and baste them with butter and their own juices. I then cut the loins out of the hog’s saddle and rubbed them heartily with a simple mix of salt, pepper, and ginger root and put them into irons. Shortly after gathering carrots, I happened upon some bleached flour. What a fine sight that was. I had forgotten about it in the back of the cupboard. I checked and sifted it for stones and weevils, and then mixed in a hand full or two of sweet suet, some of the sugar cone, cranberries from the winter drying room, and spices. This was put into my pudding cloth and set to steam away the afternoon and sing to me as it cooked. What a wonderful thing a pudding is, such an entertaining dish to the ears as well as the appetite. I stole out to the spring house and snatched up some cheese we hand hanging and found a couple of Country Pates from the last dance had here at the house and gathered the top cream from the milk pail to make custard. I went on with the other odds and ends of the meal, the side dishes were humble enough. But handled with care and given great attention to my knife work.

The day drove on and the heat of the hearth and the weather nearly had me. As my stockings were soaked as if I stood in the brook the whole day. Shortly after the night watch began to tinder and tinker with the lamps, I was done. I sent word to Captain his table was ready. The Officers and men, had on their best dunnage. What an honor for me to prepare for them. All of these men seem weathered and hard bitten by wind and wave, but warm and cheered as if already home. 

A few of the hands gave me help in carrying the repast out to the porch. They spoke a few words and like a mighty broadside, there went in with all hands, as if boarding a ship. The meal was not hardly started, when I was summed by the Captain his self. Huzzah to the cook he said, and the crew replied back, Huzzah. It warmed me through and through. Then before all, the sailor called Apple asked the Captain, if they should press me for crew? Then before all he laid the press of a shilling before me. I gladly accepted. For I hope to get home to the mountains in Austria and to be with my family. This was by far not my finest of meals, but one of the finest of times.

Monday, November 13

Meet Mr. Brigstocke

Today begins a prolong'd weekly series wherein we introduce to you some of the REAL Acastas, the men who served aboard at some point between the period from her launch in 1797 to her final year in service to the Crown in 1815. Stop back every Monday to meet an all-new and REAL Acasta!

Acasta Midshipman under Captain Kerr, May 1811

Thomas Robert Brigstocke entered the Navy, 8 Oct. 1807, as Fst.-cl. Vol., on board the Marlborough 74, Capt. Graham Moore, in which ship, after escorting the Royal family of Portugal to the Brazils, he attended, as Midshipman, the expedition to Flushing, and was employed, on the evacuation of Walcheren, in destroying the basin, arsenal, and seadefences. He removed, in May, 1811, to the Acasta 40, Capt. Alex. Robt. Kerr, employed in the Bay of Biscay, Channel, and off St. Helena; rejoined Capt. Moore in the Chatham 74, on the North Sea station, in June, 1812...


Friday, November 10

The Damned Lice

By Ship's Carpenter Jas. Apple

I remember once the damned lice came inside our walls and spread from landsman to the lieutenant without discrimination. I myself having hair well past my rigging belt was thought by most, prime to git corrupted by this pestilence, but as it turned out my head and neck was as fallow as a coal hodd. 

I always kept my quew as best I might by keeping it brushed and platted. And we had a tar named Hobbs who had grew up around the docks and had worked on whalers, and who's hair was almost as long as mine, who had a fair amount of whale oil that he used on his head and said would he share with me if I would plat his hair while on blockade and of course did. 

One of the fellows as I recall was told that if he put creosote on his hair thinking it would keep the lice from nesting. And after his watch he slathered more than a bit on his hair and when he fell asleep he soon woke up and set to thrashing about and got all hung up in his hammuck, saying his head and neck was on fire. He ran all about bellow decks and found some leather fire buckets with sea water in them and poured that on his head and when that ran down his back, it scalded him like a hog and he set to screaming waking up most and we all had a good laugh at his expense.

I had fashioned a few pairs of pincers from some brass wire that I had and that helped with the bugs and eggs on some but ultimately many chose to shave the head for some relief and as a result the Doctor had many a Jack and Joe on the sick and injured list with sunburn and blisters.

And so is life at sea

Thursday, November 9

HMS ACASTA by Patrick O'Brian

It's no secret that we here at are huge fans of Patrick O'Brian and the Aubrey-Maturin series. When reading through the books, I discovered that the Acasta makes a couple of cameos. So, here are the 'O'Brian-verse' connections to our particular favourite ship!

MILD SPOILER ALERT: You're about to read some very LIGHT, almost completely inconsequential, semi-spoilery info from The Fortune of War, Treason’s Harbour, and The Hundred Days.

From the WikiPOBia:

Acasta is one of a series of ships in the Aubrey-Maturin series whose commands are promised to Captain Jack Aubrey by the Admiralty, but are ultimately given to other, more influential officers. Another such ship, promised to Aubrey but never delivered, is the fictional frigate HMS Blackwater.

The Admiralty’s promise of Acasta is first made to Aubrey in The Fortune of War. She is described by Aubrey to his friend Maturin as a "forty-gun frigate, pretty well the heaviest in the service … And the finest sailer of the lot, on a bowline. Two points off the winds, she could give even dear Surprise foretopgallant, at least. A true, copper-bottomed plum, Stephen…."

Aubrey's fictional characterization of Acasta's speed likely overstates the historical ship's actual performance. The historical Acasta is described as "not outstandingly fast," but is acknowledged to have been "very weatherly" and more maneuverable than most other frigates her size. Likewise, Aubrey's description of Acasta as the "heaviest in the service" is not entirely accurate. Although she was among the largest fifth-rates of her time, she was not the heaviest of her contemporaries. For example, two other British 40-gun fifth-rates launched at the same time as Acasta (Endymion and Cambrian) both outweighed her and mounted heavier weaponry (24-pound cannon).

In The Surgeon’s Mate, Aubrey learns that Acasta has, in his absence while a prisoner-of-war in Boston, been given to Capt. "Robert Kerr." Acasta re-appears later in the Aubrey-Maturin series near the end of The Hundred Days, as part of Admiral Lord Barmouth’s squadron at Gibraltar.