Monday, June 5

Food at Sea

Mess Deck aboard HMS Trincomalee
The standard allotment of food for sailors for the week is as follows: 

4 pounds of salt beef 
2 pounds of salt pork 
2 pints of pease 
3 pints of oatmeal 
6 ounces of butter 
12 ounces of cheese 

There is also a daily allotment of a pound of bread (generally in the form of Ship's Bisket) and a gallon of beer (or some other type of alcohol depending upon the availability). Other variations include once a week flour, suet (beef fat) and currants or raisins being issued so a "duff" can be made as prevention against scurvy.


  1. I have always wondered when I see this, how was all this prepared? I mean, it issued 'per sailor', but I cannot imagine that they were all doing their own individual cooking.

    Was this just an accounting method used by the cook when deciding on portions?

    1. The above list is a 'per sailor' list for a week.

      The cooking and serving of food aboard a King's ship is done like many things in the Royal Navy, by custom. The crew is divided into small groups of 4 to 8 men called "a mess" and assigned a number.

      Each week a different member of the mess would serve as the cook. This was a job in which no skill was needed, the most difficult job was mixing the flour, suet (animal fat) and currents for the making of "duff". The exact ingredients are delivered to the "cook" and all he has to do is put them in the sack and mix them. He would also have to make sure the table was kept clean, cared for a small wooden tub known as a "kid", a tea kettle and a vinegar keg.

    2. The food was issued daily, per mess, to the mess "cook" who saw to it that the salt meat was boiled by the ship's cook (each mess has a net with a numerical tag to put the meat in, and all were dumped in the big cookpot of the stove) and everything brought to the mess as the Doctor describes.
      For more information on the subject, I strongly recommend _Feeding Nelson's Navy_ by Janet MacDonald.