Eggs in Medicine During the Golden Age of Piracy, Page 1
When you think of pirates and their surgeons, the first thing that comes to mind is without a doubt: eggs. Okay, that may not the case, but the egg's history is quite intertwined with medicine. Of course they were a part of a sailor's diet (when he was lucky), which affected his health. However, they were also a salient feature in the diet of the ill and how that diet affected their recovery. What may not be as well known to the casual reader is how eggs were used in medicine itself. So let's look at how eggs impacted medicine during the golden age of piracy.
Eggs as Food
Broken Egg Mieris Frans Jansz Van (17 c.)
While I haven't come across a direct reference to pirates eating eggs, I do have an indirect one. In The General History of the Pyrates, we learn that "[Bartholomew] Robert's Crew discerning [the British Man of War ship Swallow's] Masts over the Land, went down into the Cabin, to acquaint him of it, he being then at Breakfast with his new Guest, Captain Hill, on a savoury Dish of Solomongundy, and some of his own Beer."1 Salmagundi is a salad containing all sorts of meat and eggs, according to a recipe by Hanna Glasse. She specifies that the salad contains "two hard eggs chopped small, the whites in one, and the yolks in another".2 Henry Teonge supports this with a Journal entry in 1678 noting that "…at
dinner we are fain to make shift with an excellent salad and eggs... all washed down with good Margate ale, March beer, and, last of all, a good bowl of punch."3 By way of a more unusual ingredient choice, Captain Nathaniel Uring tells us, "...upon these Eggs we often feasted, drinking "em mix"d in Punch".4
I have actually made a Salmagundi according to the Glasse recipe as a meal for the Crew at Pirates in Paradise in 2008. You can read about that here. We used a dozen eggs, a fact I know because I was tasked with cooking them. Okay, that is a bit off-topic, but wasn't it fascinating?
Eggs appear to have been a potential feature in a sailors diet. So this begs the question, 'How might they have gotten them on ship?'
1 Captain Charles Johnson, A general history of the pirates, 3rd Edition, p. 270; 2 Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, p. 93; 3 Henry Teonge, The Diary of Henry Teonge, Chaplain on Board H.M.’s Ships Assistance, Bristol, and Royal Oak, 1675-1679, p. 208; 4 Nathaniel Uring, A history of the voyages and travels of Capt. Nathaniel Uring, p. 242