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Monkey soup, fruit and dessert - that's what pirates ate once

Have you ever wondered that? what the pirates ate Caribbean on ships? If we know it today and can talk about it, it is mainly thanks to the French writer Melani Le Bris. In fact, it was she who wrote The Filibusta kitchen, a very appealing text of immense anthropological value, as it was written on the basis of the logbooks of pirates and privateers. This book was published for the first time in 2003 by Eleuthera-Verlag and in two further editions in 2010 and 2020 and continues to inspire and ignite with the same enthusiasm and enthusiasm. Today we are revealing some aspects of this world, but not too many, because the hope is that you too will buy this text. So let's start this partial trip at other times and in other places, those of the Filibusta kitchen, between stories and quotes from the book. But be careful: only read on if you have a strong stomach.

From Filibusta cuisine to Caribbean cuisine, a meeting of different influences

Con "Filibusta" they indicate all these pirates and corsairs called privateers those between '500 and' 800 which had received "Travel letter"that is, the mandate of their respective French, English and Dutch governments to attack and plunder the Spanish-occupied coasts, properties and territories, especially those of the Caribbean. They are therefore people who move, adapt, mix, discover because of their nature and activity; Because of this, real worlds have evolved on their ships, as can be clearly seen from the dishes they prepare. In fact, we can think of pirates as rough, gruff, and grumpy characters, but in reality they were capable of great things in the kitchen, complex and very elaborate dishes. In particular, in the book we mentioned at the beginning, there is the birth of Caribbean cuisineIn the beginning it was exactly the Filibusta kitchen.

Photo by Giulia Ubaldi

As Michel Le Bris, the author's father, writes in the introduction, why should this cuisine be defined as “Caribbean” when it could just as easily be called a free kick? In fact, it is not just derived from the indie populations present at the time of the conquest, but is that Product of a meeting between different influencesFrom the beginning Caribbean and African to French, English, Dutch and Spanish, whose only melting pot, according to Le Bris, was precisely the Filibusta. In short, the power that the sea must unite and unite! In addition, the "other" remains something that has been banished to the colonial era: today it no longer makes sense, the world is the result of hybridizations, the identities themselves are hybrid and everything is mixed. The cultures have now shown us that they are interconnected and have cross-border borders: it is up to us to decide whether we want to cross them.

"Finally, Filibustiera was therefore the original Caribbean cuisine: fiery liqueurs, flat like molten lava, all the flavors of the world mixed, revealed in a previously unknown shimmering shimmer. “And in such a fiery kitchen, the main ingredient that is always there could only be one: chilli, or rather chilli. Because you know cooking is the soul and we are what we eat, right? What did the pirates eat?

What did the pirates eat? Chilli or rather chilli and countless sauces

There are infinitely many in the Filibusta kitchen peperoncini, then used for that Preparation of various sauces (as well as pancakes with peas called "Chili Delights"). The most common types include:

  • 'SHabanero, King of the Caribbean Islands;
  • il Cayenne pepper, originally from the Andes;
  • il Trinidad Congo peppershaped like a little pumpkin;
  • il Chili birdso named because it is constantly being pecked by birds;
  • il Banana chillialmost bigger than a pepper;
  • the known Jalapeno, a great classic in Mexican cuisine.

And then so on, many others like that Billy goatthe Scotch Bonnet pepper or Madame Jacques. Remember that the smallest peppers are also the strongest!

Dan Kosmayer / shutterstock.com

With these, the pirates prepared various spices, such as the most famous Buccaneers chilli sauce with fat, salt, pepper and green lemon, which “the well-known father Labat liked as the ideal accompaniment to grilled pork”. In the case of crabs, on the other hand, this is preferable Taumalin sauce from the Caribbeanmade from bird chilli pepper with onions, shallots, chives, garlic, oil, parsley. Then there are other sauces with other ingredients, like the one with papaya (immature) or the tomatoto reduce the sharpness; or the Chien sauce with aromatic herbs. One of the freshest is thisajilimojili, with lemon and garlic, sweet and spicy at the same time, in contrast to that Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce what is described in the book as an explosive mixture still waiting for potential victims! Last but not least Pepper rum, always with bird chills combined with scotch or rum, just a drop of which is enough ... In short, we could go on and on about this spicy topic, but we prefer to stop here to leave you a little curiosity and on with the one with which these sauces were flavored, that is, meat and fish.

Meat: from monkey soup to grilled lizards

"Here everyone who says meat says first of all grilled meat". As the Father Labat's pigfirst marinated with lemon, pepper and chilli and then filled with rice, garlic, spices and onions; or that of Chestnutswrapped in banana leaves and Jamaican pepper. But also steamed, as well as the meat of child or beefwith brandy or spices. But to leave us with our mouths open, there are many other types of meat that not only make vegetarians turn their noses: "The hungry buccaneers were ready to eat almost anything, also because they were often without bread and therefore on shoes were folded. " Soles, gloves, oats ... "

For example, it happened to eat several times Penguins, even taking, and di Alligators and crocodiles, much appreciated along with their eggs and grilled lizards, described as white meat similar to that of chicken. Or again from Monkeyscooked in soupthat after an initial moment of disgust are very tasty (according to them), with a taste reminiscent of that of rabbits. At best, they ate thataguti, a small rodent-grade curry stew that can still be found in restaurants in Trinidad today; or the Manatee grilled, "even tastier than veal". Last but not least, the stew from green turtle of which Father Labat said "that he had never eaten anything so appetizing and delicious, very nutritious and easily digestible". Do you think it has eaten so much that today (luckily, I add) it is a protected species?

And it always happened to him that he ate his own too pappagallo: “The meat was very good, tender and juicy. When these birds are very young, they are roasted on a spit, grilled, or in compote like lovebirds as they are usually very fatty. “But in addition to these rarer species, the pirates ate any bird that" passed within range of a rifle ". from forest pigeons to classicchickenusually cooked on the grill, with green lemon or in Jambalaya, similar to paella, which testifies to the ubiquitous Spanish influence.

Photo by Giulia Ubaldi

Or in the Salmigondis, the pirate dish par excellence, one of the two I've tried Rob De Matt from Milan when the cook Edoardo Todeschini cooked it on the occasion of the presentation of the new edition of this book. It's about A huge mixed salad with different vegetables These include spinach, marinated cabbage, lettuce, watercress, then eggs, grapes, pickles, anchovies, spices, mustard, vinegar, salt, oil, pepper, spring onions, lemon, parsley and of course chicken breasts and thighs, which can also be replaced with pigeon , Veal and / or pork. In short, stuff for "rude guys with non-refinement tastes".

On the ocean floor: from the coveted Newfoundland cod to ... flying fish!

That the fishIt's an exciting chapter, not just in the book, but in Filibusta cuisine in general. It is ubiquitous Newfoundland Cod: The most beautiful were reserved for the French market, while the others were transported by pirate ships to the Caribbean, "where African slaves made delicious pancakes"In Martinique and Guadeloupe, it is still cooked as it was in the days of the filibusta Chiquetaillewhich means "in pieces". As tradition dictates, it comes first smoked on the coals until it turns slightly black; then it is desalinated in cold waterMake sure to change the soaking water several times, preferably the day before. There Chiquetaille Cod also serves as the basis for making wild, the other of the two dishes I tried at Rob De Matt: Here "the sweet and sugary flesh of the avocado goes wonderfully with the sour and salty flavors of cod, all of which are wildly seasoned with chilli and a veil of cassava".

Photo by Giulia Ubaldi

But in addition to cod, "once the nets were thrown into the water, they were filled with creatures of bright colors and shapes," including mussels, cockles, groupers, lobsters, mangrove oysters, tazard, Prawns, sea urchins, sunfish, sole, starfish, polynemids, sea bream, tuna, mackerel, Cascadura, sea bream, swordfish, freshwater shrimp called Ouassous, Sea parrots or mussels, always present to the markets of the Antilles. Other common specialties were those vivaneau cooked on the grill with chien sauce, i Flying fishesThat is blue fish that is to be tasted fried, me Crabs to do then stuffed. Or still Shark, usually fried and flavored with various spicy sauces to soften their strong taste, and the Crested fish.

The meeting with horticultural peoples: fruits, vegetables and roots

“The anonymous filibuster was even more impressed than the Indian fishing techniques of the skills of the local people as gardeners: There are many roots and fruits across the country, most of which come from Peru or Brazil. The fruits that are imported from the continent, such asavocado or sugar cane, they adapted so well that they soon reproduced in the wild. “First and foremost among these was that Manioca, originally from the southwest of Brazil, a real cult object, the basis of their diet. It was boiled first to remove the toxicity present in it, and then pressed to extract the juice, also useful for preserving meat. Other vegetables that thrived beautifully were some Roots like Caribbean cabbage and okra, this is the okra. Or tubers like Sweet potatoes, used in cakes as a dessert, or thesweet potato (similarly) on the consistency of the beetroot, defined by Father Labat as "light, easily digestible and very nutritious". In reality, however, it is not too important for the people of the Antilles to define and distinguish the different tubers as they love to mix them all up into what is actually called a tuber. "Mix everything" with European and local vegetables like carrots, beets, pumpkin, dachines, Caribbean cabbage, green beans and then lard, egg yolks, spices, garlic, coconut milk and of course chilli; all available in variable quantities depending on availability.

Ildi Papp / shutterstock.com

Among the legumes, however Peas and beans in many variations at will. The latter is used to prepare one of the symbolic dishes of pirate cuisine, namely the Bean curry with a kilo of different types, combined with garlic, onions, ginger and various spices such as saffron, curry and pepper. Finally among the fruits that ofBread treethat we already told you about that roll in its leaves and the big one Banana banana, widely used in the preparation of various desserts, both cooked on the grill in the bowl and in pancakes as a typical Antillian dessert.

"Crazy for Desserts": the importance of sugar cane and fruit

In the heart of the candy there is undoubtedly lo zucchero and then the sugar cane that is made in the Filibusta's kitchen an ingredient, not a simple sweetener (among other things, it is the base from which rum is extracted). This is not the place to retrace the sad story of their cultivation and the dramatic conditions black slavery has been exposed to for centuries, but I am sure almost everyone will remember the great epic that cost this production. In the book the hypothesis that Sugar is the origin of piracysince "the farmers who were abandoned in the plantations by their respective motherland needed filibusta to continue their trade and be protected until sugar became the islands' primary wealth and a strategic hub for the affected states".

In addition to economic and political interests, this ingredient was also of great interest in the kitchen: "The pirates had all remained a little bit children, crazy about desserts, sweets, compotes, jams (usually from local apricots), which shows that there were more naive souls among them than we say. "Among the desserts there was, for example, the White-Eat, a coconut milk dessert (Waiting for that of almonds), which is not the juice contained in the walnut, but the one obtained by macerating the grated pulp in boiling water. Then some cakes like that sugar cake with grapes, nutmeg, butter, sugar, cream and cinnamon or the Black cake from Trinidad, an adaptation of the traditional English pudding. Or even me Toulum, Molasses sweets similar to Cuban frangollos and Tamarind balls, Balls with tamarind pulp in sugar.

Kriang kan / shutterstock.com

If the rule of the stick is the work of men, this is fruit It is a divine sacrifice, all the more so on these islands where there was an overabundance of incredible diversity. There was almost always only one available for this local fruit salad, the available, such as Pineapple, mango, banana, avocado (In the West Indies, it is often eaten as a dessert with sugar, orange blossom, and rose water.) Melon, orange, watermelonwith some lemon and rum. And when they discovered new fruits that they didn't know, do you know how they managed to make sure they were good? They waited and watched the birds eat them, because "if they eat them it is a sign that we can eat them too".

Whatever the dessert, there was obviously no shortage of alcohol and digestive aids on the side.

Yo oh let's drink it! What the pirates drank

“The filibuster is someone who drinks. Cups, carafes, barrels that were tapped immediately: nothing seems to be able to put out the fire that devours it, the fire of battles, the thundering cannons, the burning cities, the fire of the chillies that never get hot enough are burned the fire of a life in an instant ". Waiting for the first distilleries, Wine was the king of all festivals. Not only those obtained from grapes imported from France and Spain, but also those obtained from the fermentation of some available fruits, such as the following:

  • il Pineapple wineto be drunk immediately before it got too bitter;
  • the wine of Banana banana, "Consumed in moderation because it gives way quickly to the head";
  • the wine of sorrela red hibiscus flower;
  • 'Souycou, a fermented cassava wine, very popular, drunk almost every day, "but which looks like beer after two or three days of fermentation";
  • il maby, a sweet or red potato wine.

igorPHOTOserg / shutterstock.com

Later, from the end of the 600th century, with the establishment of the first distillery in Barbados in 1663began the production (and especially the continuous consumption) of rum. In fact, the term first appeared in a Jamaica Council document in 1651: “The success was so overwhelming that in 1655 the Royal Navy added rum to the sailors' daily ration. And the Ti'Punch with lemon and sugar, it will soon become the most common way of drinking it, ”along with Milk punch with vanilla and nutmeg or al Beat Planteur with pure alcohol and mixed fruit juices. The consumption of orange or lemon punch also increased dramatically when it was speculated that this might help Prevent scurvy, a very common disease that decimated the crews between 1600 and 1800. Its cause was taken into account, as was the lack of hygiene, the lack of ascorbic acid, which is instead present in citrus fruits.

Another very popular drink was that Privateer Morgan's cocktailwith coconut milk, amber rum, white rum, pineapple and green lemon juice. After all, no meal ended without them bad fire coffee, with orange and lemon peel, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cognac and Cointreau. But remember that "the fact that they burned their throats with alcoholic beverages did not prevent them from looking for sweetness as well chocolatefor which they were willing to do some folly ".

That's enough, we've already told you enough about what pirates ate. We hope you have been fascinated, now all you have to do is buy this book (and devour yourself)!

Article Monkey soup, fruit and dessert - what pirates have eaten once seems to be the first food journal.