So You Want to Eat Like a Sailor? Here is Your Menu

A recent visual study by that explores the life of a sailor during the age of exploration has drummed up some truly fascinating notes about the golden-age of seamen and their unfortunate exploration diets.

Just when I thought the life of a sailor and pirate during the early days of exploration was a drunken escapade of rope swinging, deck washing, and feasting on seafood, turns out my knowledge of sailor eating conditions is a bit underwhelming. According to the data, sailors consumed about 3,000 calories a day, and apart from the menu’s lack of fresh fruits or vegetables, the rest of the ship’s conditions weren’t too accomodating. Journeys often took years, pay was poor (seamen on Columbus’ journeys made less than $10 a month in today’s money), and many of the eating and living habits led to serious sickness.

Here’s a look at what the menu could have consisted of:


1. Hardtacks

A hardtack is but a term for a simple type of cracker or biscuit. It’s made from flour, water, and sometimes salt. It’s built for its sustenance, an inexpensive and long-lasting consumable item ideal for the long voyages sailors had to make. Unfortunately, the hardtack was often infested with weevils and bugs, which sailors ate as additional food. (IMG: CivilWarAcademy/oodlekadoodleprimitives)


2. Salted Meats/Flour Mixed With Fat

Whenever meat rations ran low, flour mixed with fat was served. Apparently it was common to lose 50 percent of a crew to scurvy. So if the food doesn’t get to you, meals like these and lack of vitamins from the absence of fruits and vegetables would.


3. Ale/Wine/Hard Liquor

To top off the lack of vitamins, dehydration was not supported much by the availability of liquor on voyages. That’s right, no salads, but you’ll be able to dehydrate with a few cups of wine.


4. Dried Beans/Peas/Rice

Dried beans, peas, or rice were options for some sailors. But due to the limited amount of opportunity to get a fire started on the ship, I can’t imagine what these tasted like.


Menu based off of the following data:
Infographic by


By Elie Ayrouth

Elie is a product of Orange County, CA. In early 2012, his dentist diagnosed him with 8 different cavities, three of which on the same tooth, as a result of his 23-year Sour Patch Kid addiction.

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