“Arrr” is the word at Grange Pirate Dinner

Sep 22, 2018

The air was filled with sea shanties and the smell of beef stew cooking over a campfire at the Dartmouth Grange on September 22 for a “Pirate Dinner.”

The Free Men of the Sea, a group of privateering history interpreters, helped entertain the guests.

Meanwhile, eighteenth century cookery group Tea to Sea prepared beef stew and fish cakes, served alongside an apple cider cake and hardtack -- all food that could have been enjoyed by pirates.

“On board a ship, you had a lot of salted meats, dried meats,” John Tabor, a member of Tea to Sea said. “I think when they first pulled out you were eating pretty good, but after three or four weeks, you weren’t eating too good.”

Hardtack, the famous pirate snack, was on offer for those with strong teeth.

It’s made from only three ingredients: flour, water, and salt. The dough is then rolled out, cut into small rectangles, and baked for about an hour until it is completely dry and, true to its name, extremely hard.

Hardtack was useful because it is extremely long lasting and will not rot or change in texture. It is also useful for things like thickening stew, after being broken into crumbs by a mallet. The mallet is also necessary for cutting a hardtack cracker into smaller pieces, which can only be done by hitting a knife to force it through the hardtack.

Usually, pirates and other sailors and soldiers who ate hardtack did so only after soaking it in liquid that would make the hardtack easier to eat -- and less likely to break a tooth.

When an attendee asked what the best way to eat hardtack, Rob Fogle, a member of the Free Men of the Sea jokingly replied, “Let someone else eat it.”

The Free Men of the Sea are historical re-enactors who perform at Mystic Seaport and prioritize sharing history with audiences.

“The history can’t be lost,” Fogle said.

He emphasized the usefulness of historic knowledge, especially during blackouts.

“Wisdom is applied knowledge,” he said. “There is a method to everything we do, and it’s time tested.”

The Free Men sang shanties for the audience. Shanties are work songs, meant to keep sailors in time as they do tasks like raising a sail.

For more information about the Dartmouth Grange, visit http://www.dartmouthgrange.org/.