Lesson Plan #9

Salt Junk and Ship’s Biscuit


TOPIC: The diet of the Royal Navy during the Revolutionary War


OBJECTIVES: Students will be able to:

                                    1. Describe the diet of the Royal Navy during the Revolution

                                    2. Prepare and cook a typical meal for a sailor

                                    3. Identify potential health problems arising from such a diet



I. The Royal Navy Diet

     A. Ask students what they think sailors in the eighteenth century, aboard wooden-

hulled sailing vessels, ate.

     B. The Royal Navy diet consisted primarily of salt beef, salt pork, peas, oatmeal,

butter, cheese, ship’s biscuit (also called hardtack or ship’s bread), and a pudding

made of flour and suet.  See the handout “Diet and Recipes” for more


     C. This diet could be varied with fresh fish, meat, and vegetables, but this was rare.

     D. Other things, such as dried fruits, could be used to spice up the bland diet a little

but these items were used sparingly since a ship did not have space to store a lot

of extra things.

     E. All of a sailor’s food had to be boiled as a ship’s galley did not have the room to

bake or grill food for the large number of men on board.

II. Cooking and samples

     A. Sample a sailor’s diet

i. A sample of the basic diet could be prepared easily in a class if the Sunday/

   Thursday menu is followed as salt pork is readily available in most groceries.

ii. Hard tack, or ship’s biscuit, should be made ahead of time and could be made

     by the students in their first class session.

     B. Other navies and civilian ships carried similar items that could be used to build a

broader theme of a sailor’s world.

i. For example, many American ships carried dried sliced potatoes that were made 

   into a hash with salt beef. 

ii. The American diet included onions and turnips that were no doubt added to

    the hash.

     C. Additional recipes are provided to create other items in the diet of common people

during the Revolutionary War period.



     Diet and Recipes sheet in handout form and on transparency, if desired, and sufficient ingredients to make selections sufficient for the entire class.



     Student assessment will take place through their interaction in preparing and cooking selected items, by their attention to following directions, and by their responses in being quizzed.

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