James Cook diaries
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Preamble, May 16th 1768
The following are observations on the effects of Saloop, a portable soup, which I made during the voyage.
After repeated trials which I had frequent opportunities of making, I found Saloop to be a good restorative for those who were weak and emaciated by sickness; and `tho a natural consequence in all situations, yet a dreadful circumstance to poor seamen, who are without any hopes of relief from such a light nourishing diet except from the indulgence of those who may have the direction of the Navy; a want of which is undoubtedly the cause of great numbers becoming scerbatic? almost immediately after fevers & fluxes at sea, which is not in the power of medicine to prevent, even joined with frequent distributions to the sick from the Captain's table, which our people often experience the good effects of.
Those who were recovering generally made breakfast on Saloop with sugar, nutmeg, & a little wine, if the last is wanting, a spoonful of brandy to a pint of Saloop, is a good substitute, & His Majesty Ships are now so well accommodated, that they never want one or the other in long voyages.
In the latter stage of bloody fluxes it answers every intention that can be expected both as a restorative and a astringent, I know of nothing that can be preserved at Sea, and which will answer these intentions so well, especially where mixed with a little sound port wine; and I may venture to say that it was the means of preserving the lives of many who were ill of that disorder, in our passage between the Island of Java and the Cape of Goodhope.
In some putrid diseases, particularly those which terminate in bulious cholics, I would advise it to be sweetened with honey, rather than sugar, `tho they are both antiscorbatics, & resist putrefaction, yet honey (when people have not any natural aversion to it) is more opening, & Saloop is of such a quantity as sometimes to require that correction at sea. I may venture to insure honey's keeping good, as I had a large quantity, and found great benefit from it in bilious cases.
The portable soup which the Dolphin was supplied with, was excellent in its kind; a quantity of it was thrown into the peas on banyan days, which gave them a very grateful taste, but the ship's company could never be brought to eat it in their burgoo, and, indeed, I think sugar is a much better mixture with that part of a seaman's diet.
When we came into the Straits of Magellan we found it necessary to allow the ship's company a breakfast extraordinary when sellery could be got, as the Scurvy had just begun to appear; for, then, the stomach is in such a state it requires something of light and easy digestion, as well as things lightly fermentative; and tho' portable soup may not possess those quantities alone, in a diseased stomach, yet when mixed with fresh succulent herbs, & ground wheat, it made the mix more palatable, and they liked it better with, than without it.
Mustard & Vinegar are known antiscerbatics, & extremely serviceable with salt provisions at sea; our people found great benefit from them.
The fresh water which we distilled from salt water on board, was very wholesome, & well tasted, and the Still may be worked at sea with great care.
One thing more I beg leave to mention, which I think will be attented with some advantage towards the preservation of the health of common seamen in general.
It is to have them prevented from making too frequent use of beef fat, which they are all too prone to do, both with their puddings, & also with their biscuits, as they toast them in a morning after soaking in salt water, & besmear them with fat which they get from the cook on beef days; a proper regulation of this, or being totally deprived of it, would, I belive, be a means of delaying an attack of the Scurvy in long voyages.