Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Answers to questions I didn't know I had

One of the reasons that I settled on my current book project was that it allowed me to dig in and answer lots of questions that I have for myself. In other words, I am, in a sense, writing this book to satisfy my own curiosity, and I hope that other people will be interested as well.

Someone built this. And sailed in it.
But you know, I'm coming across lots of little tidbits that I didn't know I even would be getting into. This week, for example, I'm researching how you went about building and crewing a ship -- like a really, really big ship -- in medieval Blargistan. Over the past week, I've learned where in the city the ships got built (by the shoreline -- duh -- but where specifically), where they got their wood (pretty close by), what sorts of specialists were involved in the various steps of shipbuilding (lots), how you make a ship watertight (oakum + pine tar + secret sauce), who is on a crew (again, lots), where you hire that crew (again, near the ocean, but in another spot), what they're paid (varies).

Someone cooked this.
And, one presumes, ate it.
(Or, at least tried to.)
Today, it's been "What sorts of food do they eat?" Hard-tack with stew, washed down with rough wine, I'd have said before. Turns out there's quite a bit more to it. More meat and way more fresh bread than you'd imagine. More live animals on ship. More vegetables, even.

What is all this going to add up to? Hard to say. But "Apply Butt to Chair and Trust the Process" is my new two-part mantra.

And in the meantime: this is all pretty neat stuff to know.

EDIT: I've decided that I needed to start looking up photo credits. The first one came from a Danish group that makes and sails replica Hanseatic cogs. As far as I can tell, the one for hardtack came from a survivalist website, which also provides a recipe, so you can try it if you want it. However, the website's statement that "When it has the consistency of a brick, it’s fully cured" makes strange bedfellows with their insistence that it's "delicious."


Comradde PhysioProffe said...


a stitch in time said...

It's post-medieval and you might already know it, but speaking of ships and cooking/food: There's a reconstruction of the Mary Rose Galley that has been used for cooking tests, with stunning results. Here's a lead should you want to look into this:

Notorious Ph.D. said...

@ Comrade: It's very nearly "talk like a pirate day," you know.

@ Stitch: thanks! I'll check it out!

Susan said...

So, how long are the voyages? I would have thought a week or two max. So the animals on board (chicken? Sheep? Pigs?) do surprise me a bit.

Not Nurse Ratched said...

Yay for apply butt to chair!