Aargghh, matey – where be my salmagundi?!!
My husband and I recently returned from a Caribbean cruise. Oddly enough, I’ve gone from never visiting the Caribbean to enjoying it twice in one year. (I described my first visit in this post.) We had a wonderful time, and now I’m hooked on the Caribbean AND cruising.
Our second port of call during the cruise was Nassau, New Providence, in the Bahamas. From a little Internet research prior to our trip, I knew Nassau was home to a pirate museum. I have always been drawn to stories about pirate ways (an avid reader, particularly as a child, I found historical accounts and fiction describing life on the high seas to be intriguing).
As we wandered the streets of Nassau I spotted the museum (officially called Pirates of Nassau) on a corner. Practically dragging my husband behind me, I was all set to buy tickets but he hemmed and hawed, not eager to enter.
I was at a loss to understand how he could possibly NOT be interested in visiting a museum dedicated to pirate lore! He eventually succumbed to my pleading and we paid our admission. (He afterward admitted the museum was very entertaining despite early reservations it might be “cheesy” – hence his reluctance.)
Once inside, as our eyes adjusted to the darkness, we found ourselves standing beside a pirate schooner. We entered the hold of the ¾-scale replica and began our journey into New Providence’s colorful pirate past . . .
Among other things, we learned:
- Most pirates were Royal Navy deserters or sailors on merchant ships who sought to escape the dismal and abusive conditions of those professions. Piracy, a life of leisure involving riches, women and rum, was an attractive alternative.
- Pirates were apt to lose limbs and eyes, due in part to their propensity to be armed to the teeth and highly intoxicated. As a result, many pirate crews drew up agreements that compensated members for missing limbs and eyeballs.
- Captured female pirates could often escape punishment of death by “pleading their bellies” (pregnancy).
- There is only one recorded instance of a pirate crew forcing a captive to “walk the plank.”
- Pirate crews did punish dissenters by marooning them on a deserted island.
Not surprisingly, I was quite interested in discovering what pirates ate. I found out pirate crews typically brought live animals on board as food sources and were partial to something called “salmagundi.”
Salmagundi was concocted of chopped meats, seafood, vegetables, eggs, fruits, nuts (basically anything on hand) and marinated with vinegar, oil, spices and wine. According to Wikipedia, “the French word ‘salmagondis’ means a hodgepodge or mix of widely disparate things.”
I can see how a dish of this sort, preserved in wine and vinegar, would be convenient and necessary when sailing aboard a pirate vessel for weeks or months on end. The bigger question, of course, is what it tasted like. I plan to get my hands on a salmagundi recipe soon and find out!