If you’ve ever read a history book, you’ll know that life wasn’t always easy back in the day, especially when it came to ocean travel during the 18th century.
Long months spent at sea aboard a wooden vessel doesn’t sound like it was a journey for the faint of heart. Especially when you consider that refrigeration wasn’t a thing yet, so they had to get creative with how to make their food last a while.
18th century historian Jon Townsend is the one who takes us on a journey to look at what exactly goes into the unleavened crackers sailors would refer to as hardtack. And spoilers, it’s simply a mix of flour, water, and salt.
However, because of such a simplified recipe, these crackers were able to have a very long shelf life, which made them perfect for long voyages at sea. Plus, they were quite filling to eat, even if their taste was bland and boring.
As Townsend explains in the video below, “Ship’s biscuit was a staple food for sailors and soldiers for centuries. Join us as we take a journey back in time to learn how this simple, hard, and durable bread sustained armies and navies during long voyages and battles.”
He further explained the crackers’ name, since they would often be so hard, they would have to be soaked in liquid to make them edible. Wow, imagine cracking a tooth on one of those!
Townsend shared, “The trick with ships biscuits is you can’t just eat them you will break your teeth so we don’t want to eat that. …We have broken up a little bit of ships biscuit and soaked it in wine and here we’re using it like cereal so I’ve broken up the ship’s biscuit by pounding it and then pouring it into hot chocolate and that’s another popular drink form form from the time period.”
He then goes on to eat a hardtack biscuit in the video, which was about ten years old! Incredible, they really do have a long shelf life!
He said, “It’s got all these extra little holes in it. I didn’t make all these holes some of these holes are made by bugs which is a common problem with ships biscuits and this one is a pretty hard …18th century sailors, they would tap the biscuits on the table to knock the bugs out or eat them in the dark because they didn’t want to know what they were eating…Tastes almost exactly like the brand new ship’s biscuit still after 10 or 12 years, its just as edible as it was before.”
Check out the video down below:
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