At the very bottom of the ship you would find the food stores. While the Vasa was still in the archipelago, the crew had to eat the food they had brought themselves. They were only fed once the ship sailed into open waters.
The ship’s cook would prepare the food in the galley, the ship’s kitchen. In a large 180-litre iron pot, he would make pea soup and gruel over an open fire.
During meals, the sailors and soldiers would sit on the deck and eat together in small groups. Each group would share a wooden bowl and each member of the group brought his own spoon.
During the excavation of the Vasa they found a jar containing seven wooden spoons of different types. Perhaps a group of sailors had put them away until the next time they would get something from the cook’s great pot?
Drying and salting
The food had to last a long time. Before there were tins, fish and meat were preserved by drying and salting them. It could also be put in brine. Maybe you have already tried 17th-century food? In Sweden, we still eat pickled herring for example, even if we don’t have to preserve the fish that way.
Pea soup is another dish with a long history. By drying the peas, you could make them last for years. When it was time to eat them, they were soaked and then boiled together with salted meat and thyme.
During the excavation of the Vasa, they also found fishing equipment. Perhaps the crew would try to vary their salty diet with some fresh fish every now and then?
Beer was better than water
Each group that ate together also shared a drinking cup with a lid. It was made of wood and called a tankard. Water kept in barrels will not stay fresh for very long. For this reason, beer became a necessary provision on the ships. The tankard was passed around the group and had to be refilled several times.
They would drink copious amounts since their food was so salty. But the ship’s beer was not so strong that the crew got drunk.