A Contemporary Account of a Ship’s Cook

Naval Scenes: A Steward and a Cook by Thomas McLean

His knowledge extends not to half a dozen dishes; but he’s so pretty a fellow at what he undertakes, that the Bare Sight of his cookery gives you a Belly-full. He cooks by the hour glass, as the Parsons preach sermons; and will no more surpass one Puncto of Time, than a scrupulous virtuoso, in the concoction of his stomach, or an Alchymyst in the cooking of his Grand Elixir.

All his science is contained within the cover of a sea-kettle. The composing of a Minc’d-pye, is Metaphysicks to him; and the roasting of a pig as puzzling as the squaring of a Circle.

Not that but he has an admirable hand in squeezing of Silver from Beef-fat; which he does with as much dexterity as a Quack does gold from a Dogs Turd; and though the extraction be very gross, its yet so well refined, that it does not, in the least, smell of the kettle. He has sent the Fellow a thousand times to the Devil that first invented lobscouse; but for that lewd wasting of grease, he had grown as fat in purse as a Portsmouth Alderman, and made his son seven Years ago a downright Gentleman.

He’s never so hungry as to lick his own fingers, nor such a fool as to wipe them on his Breeches; but he sweeps off the luscious stuff as cleverly as a Dairy-Maid does her Butter and firkins it up just as carefully.

The Purser (When at a low ebb for Butter) helps out his stock by a dextrous Mixture with the cook’s Ware; and as for candles, he can never be in the dark, so long as the Cook has any fat about him, with which he makes Lights to lighten the Gentiles, to the Glory of his saving Invention.

Tho’ Salt water’s the element that supports him, yet he can no longer live without fire than a salamander. Where this once extinguished, Old Nick and he might return to Terra Firma, and go grazing for a subsidence.

He’s an excellent mess-mate for a bear, being the only two-legged Brute that lives by his own Grease; tho’ he be no lean Scab, yet he’s very rarely Pursy, and no wonder, for there’s near as much Stuff drops from his Carcase every day, as would tallow a Ship’s Bottom.

Courtesy of the Historical Maritime Society.

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