Illustration by Juliet Jacobson
The cook was responsible for transforming the salted meat, flour, and whatever fresh produce came aboard into meals for the captain and his crew. The captain and officers were served the best meals. The harpooner's meals were the same, minus butter and sugar. The meals for the rest of the crew were served in buckets called kids. At mealtimes the cook would call out, and several of the foremast hands would hurry to the galley to pick up the kids, filled with the meat, potatoes and vegetables, and a bucket of tea or coffee. Depending on the weather, they carried the kids to the deck or to the forecastle. The cook prepared a great deal of "salt horse" or "salt junk" which was heavily salted beef that had to be soaked for hours before cooking. Once or twice a week the cook made "lobcouse", a hash of salt meat and hard bread. His treat was plum duff, a pudding made with flour, lard, yeast, water and dried fruit. When a ship visited port there would be fresh fruit or vegetables. The rest of the time the food was not only old but was often filled with maggots. The cook lived in steerage and his share of the profits or lay ranged between 1/125 and 1/160.