It’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day! I know I’m running late – it’s after 6:30 as I write this. I’m afraid I ran like crazy all day, from the moment my feet hit the floor this morning. Still, I wanted to wish you a fine Talk Like a Pirate Day, and to make some suggestions for authentic – or reasonably authentic – celebrations of the event.

I gave a quick google to the food habits of pirates, and also to their legendary appetite for drink. Let’s start with the latter. Pirates did often drink ale, not a great choice for us. But the pirate libation we hear of most often is “grog.” What the heck is “grog” anyway?

Turns out it’s rum and water, in a ratio of about 4 parts water to 1 part rum. After several weeks at sea, the water in casks would turn stale and nasty, with algae and other unpleasantness. To kill the various interesting critters, and prevent a ship-wide outbreak of dysentery, the water would be mixed with rum, a pretty potent antiseptic. Often lemon or lime juice was added to improve flavor, with the added benefit that it prevented scurvy. Given this description, I declare the sugar-free mojito to be a worthy grog substitute for International Talk Like a Pirate Day, though I might leave out the mint – not much fresh mint growing on the deck, you know?

Pirate Mojito

1 shot white rum
½ teaspoon Splenda or equivalent sweetener (optional)
Wedge of lime
club soda to fill

In a tall glass, combine the rum, the sweetener if using, and the lime, squeezed in. Fill the glass with ice (not available on ships in the Caribbean, I admit, but very pleasant) and fill with club soda.

But what about food? Turns out that pirate food varied quite a lot, depending on how long they’d been at sea. When they set sail, they’d have a goodly cargo of fresh foods, including fruits and vegetables, which they’d enjoy till it was gone. Too, they’d take along live chickens for the eggs, and cows for the milk, plus feed for the livestock. They’d have eggs and dairy until the feed ran out, at which point they’d have a nice dinner of chicken or beef.

Sooner or later, though, the fresh food ran out. What then? Like all sailors of the era, they depended on two foodstuffs: hard tack and salt meat. Hard tack was a very hard, cracker-like bread – not low carb, but who’s going to miss it? On the other hand, the salt meat most commonly available today is that favorite of low carbers and carbivores alike, bacon. Salt beef, also known as “salt horse,” is considerably harder to come by. The closest substitute available at your grocery store would be corned beef – but it’s way too late to start cooking corned beef for tonight. Keep it in mind for next year!

There’s another, even more appealing option, though, for an authentic pirate supper: barbecued pork. Turns out that the term “buccaneer” is a reference to the boucan, a beach cookout of fresh pork. Reportedly, Caribbean pirates stocked many islands with pigs, allowing them to run free and breed, thus assuring themselves of plentiful feral pigs to hunt when they touched that shore again. They’d drop anchor, row ashore, kill a pig or two, build a fire on the beach, and have themselves a heck of a time.

You know what that means? Barbecued ribs are authentic pirate food. If it’s not nice enough in mid-September where you live, take a look at my previous post, the one about oven-roasted ribs.

Barbecued ribs and mojitos, that’s your International Talk Like A Pirate Day menu. Bacon on the side, or possibly crumbled over a salad – we’ll assume those pirate picked some fresh greens to go with the meat.

Sorry this is so late! The tide was against me.

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