Friday, 14 August 2015

"Captain Cook's Cook"; or, What Did They Eat on the Endeavour?

The dirty old chook himself.
Captain Cook's Cook. (1929, January 30). The World's News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 1955), p. 5. Retrieved August 15, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article131483890


Captain James Cook was, right up until the 90s when I went to school, hailed as the man who discovered Australia. Of course, European Australians have since realised that you can't 'discover' somewhere that is already full of people; and what's more, Cook wasn't even the first European to visit.

But Cook, and his famous voyage on the Endeavour, still loom large in Australian history and culture. (For instance, I remember from the same 90s school-years a rhyme that began "Captain Cook is a dirty old chook..." and went downhill from there). Cook's reports about Australia certainly provided some of the impetus and information for British colonisation, which I believe puts him at the beginning of the 'colonial era' that this blog covers.

A 1929 review of Professor G. Arnold Wood's booklet The Voyage of the Endeavour sheds some interesting light onto what Cook and his crew would have eaten while at sea:
"Mr. Joseph Banks, who had eaten the best dinners in London, thoroughly enjoyed Thorn- son's porridge at breakfast, says that a shark cooked by Thomson was so good that everyone 'from the Captain to the swabber, dined heartily upon it,' and describes a soup made by Thomson out of a cuttle-fish as 'one of the best soups I ever ate.'"  
Captain Cook's Cook. (1929, January 30). The World's News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 1955), p. 5. Retrieved August 15, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article131483890

Cook and his men feasting on shark. I wish I could get my hands on Thomson's recipe!
Captain Cook's Cook. (1929, January 30). The World's News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 1955), p. 5. Retrieved August 15, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article131483890


I found it fascinating to see how much use the ship's cook made out of fish caught along the way. This also highlights how important a variety of historical sources are when trying to answer a historical question: out of these food items, only one (the porridge) would have appeared on the ship's manifest on departure.

So if you'd like to follow in the footsteps of Captain Cook's cook, and eat as the did on the Endeavour, flake (gummy shark) and calamari rings wouldn't be a bad place to start!