The food was stored at the very bottom of the ship. While the Vasa was still in Swedish waters, the crew had to eat the food they had brought themselves. They were only given food by the navy 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 member of the group brought his own spoon, but the group would share food from a wooden bowl.

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 were fed.

Drying and salting

The food had to last a long time. Before there were tins, fish and meat were preserved by drying and salting or by storing in brine (salty water). 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. Dried peas could last for years. When it was time to eat them, they were soaked and then boiled together with salted meat, often flavoured with thyme.

Fishing equipment was also found on Vasa. 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 vessel. It was made of wood with a lid and called a tankard. Water kept in barrels will not stay fresh for very long, but beer stayed fresh much longer.  

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.The tankard was passed around the group and had to be refilled several times.