Sunday, 21 July 2019
Naval rations: Day 7
The meal to mark the end of the week was salt pork with pea soup. Long boiling of the pork left the meat tender but perfectly flavoursome. It also yielded a tasty but rather salty stock, which, diluted with the water in which the split peas had been steeped, plus some additional water from the ship's tanks (i.e. the kitchen tap), made the basis of the soup.
Some authors have written approvingly of the technique of mashing the peas by putting a round-shot into the coppers "which from the constant motion of the vessel acts as a sort of crushing machine", but that was not resorted to in this case (I used a hand blender).
The only condiment added was a sprinkling of ground black pepper. From the image it can be seen that the 'soup' is not entirely liquid, being more of a thick paste - somewhere in the middle ground between a soup and a pudding. That did not, however, impair the excellent flavour of the dish in any way. Either alone, or with the addition of meat that was easily shredded with the fork, this was a veritable treat and it is not surprising that it was one of Jack Tar's favourites.
Additional liquid would have been a boon with regard to the shards of ship's biscuit employed as croutons. There being no surplus for them to absorb, they softened hardly at all, resolutely maintaining instead their fortress-like resistance to this diner's molars.
However, that is indeed a minor gripe, which was no detriment to the enjoyment of the meal, and will easily be rectified as the embryonic ship's cook gains in experience.
This was the seventh day of dining on the victuals of Queen Victoria's Royal Navy, and it marks the end of this particular voyage of discovery. The stock of lemon juice is almost expended, and although a dose of scurvy would convey incomparable bragging rights among the Arctic aficionados, the call of home has won through.
This may, however, be reckoned as just a preliminary excursion. A sort of training expedition as it were. Certainly, much of the fare reported on these pages will be revisiting the writer's table in the future. But for now, there will be a period of revelling in the comforts of home cooking and all the luxuries of the life ashore.
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