Cooking and eating on the Invincible

‘Englishmen, and more especially seamen, love their bellies above everything else.’

Samuel Pepys, 1677

Life at sea can be hard and dull. Mealtimes were a chance to fill bellies and socialise – vital for the crew’s morale. But the food had to be good!

What’s for dinner?

Most food had to be dried, pickled or salted for long voyages. Butter soon became rancid so the Royal Navy stocked Invincible with large jars of Italian olive oil. Fresh food was bought at friendly ports along the way and chicken and pigs could be kept in pens on board. But the longer you were out to sea, the more boring the food got!

Cooking on a wooden ship

Cooking over fire on a wooden ship was a perilous business, so the fire was enclosed in a brick oven and recipes for the crew tended to involve boiling everything in a big vat. Food for the officers and captain was much tastier, because they could afford to bring their own supplies on board for the cook to use. But these ran out the longer they were at sea too.

Drinking on Invincible

Fresh water soon became brackish (salty). To hide the taste it was mixed with rum to make grog. Each crewmember was entitled to one pint of grog and about seven pints of beer a day. Drunkenness was a problem, according to the complaints of many captains, officers and ships surgeons in letters and diaries. We know that the Captain and his officers drank wine with their meals, because a large number of wine bottles were found on the wreck.