I am in the middle of re-reading William Dampier's books and I am struck by how much ole' Bad Bill (as I like to call him) liked to eat. In some regards I understand this because in my younger days I was curious to know what shipboard meals would be like in the 1600 - 1700's. This led me to learn how to make hard tack and salt beef. I made some and my friends and I managed to choke it all down with copious amounts of rum. (Just in case you are adventurous, here is how to make your own hardtack and salt beef.) It was truly horrible; a taste experience so bad that it really put me in touch with the desperation of the 17th Century sailor. If left with only starvation as an option, then I am sure that I would be happy to eat the hardtack and salt beef. Yet, I would probably look for any opportunity to try for something better, as I would be sure that nearly anything would be better tasting.
Perhaps this too is Bad Bill's motivation, because as he describes animals in his books, he often includes references to eating them. For example, while cruising off the coast of Panama:
" . . . who brought aboard some half-grown Tortoise; and some of us went ashore every day to hunt for what we could find in the Woods: Sometimes we got Peccary, Warree, or Deer; at other times we light on a drove of large fat Monkeys, or Quames, Corroses (each a large sort of Fowl), Pidgeons, Parrots, or Turtle-doves. We liv'd very well on what we got, not staying long in one place . . ."
Ewww, monkeys. Somehow I just can't imagine eating a monkey or wanting to eat a monkey. Yuck! I just can't imagine it. Here's another great journal entry from Captain Dampier:
From Bon Airy we went to the Isle of Aves, or Birds; so called from its great plenty of Birds, as Men of War and Boobies; but especially Boobies. The Booby is a Waterfowl, somewhat less than a Hen, of a light greyish colour. I observed the Boobies of this Island to be whiter than others. This bird hath a strong Bill, longer and bigger than a Crows, and broader at the end: her feet are flat like a Ducks feet. It is a very simple Creature and will hardly go out of a Man's way. . . . Their Flesh is black and eats fishy, but are often eaten by the Privateers. . .
In one of my favorite sections Bad Bill spends two pages describing the "sucking fish" and all of the different things that he finds them attached to, including the bottom of ships, old turtles, drifting planks, and even swimming sharks. At the end of the section he declares that this fish must be "the Remora, of which the Ancients tell such stories" and after listing every place he's seen them he ends the section like this:
They have no scales and are very good meat.
I have always loved pirates. My parents took me to Walt Disney World in 1972 and they had to drag me away from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride screaming after they refused to take me on it a third time. I wasn't really aware that eating everything in sight was a trait of pirates until now. I'm not really known for being an adventurous eater, but then I have a family history of gastro-intestinal problems. Hmm, perhaps if I ate more monkeys . . . No. Just no.