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Stockholm - Vasa Museum - Food History of the Vasa and its Crew.

December 9, 2016

On my trip to Sweden, I made a quick stop to the Vasa museum in Stockholm. I was a  "foodie" going to a boat museum... my initial thought… yawn. Big mistake. This museum and its contents are magnificent.  

 

The Vasa was a Swedish warship built between 1626 and 1628. On August 10, 1628, thousands of onlookers crowded Stockholm harbor to watch this grand ship sail.  Symbolic of the King's ambition, the incredibly ornate ship was one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world. There was one slight problem. The Vasa was dangerously unstable and top-heavy. After sailing a whooping 1,400 yards, the Vasa sank after a strong breeze grazed its sails. Yes, I said breeze. The ship, filled with men, cannons, and provisions sank only 390 feet from shore, in a depth of 105 feet. There the Vasa rested for 333 years. 

 

In 1961, Sweden decided to conduct a herculean task; raise the ship.  Archaeologists found thousands of artifacts and the remains of at least 15 people. Among the many items found were cutlery, food, and drink. With all these relics displayed, the museum does a fantastic job providing  you with a window into history, meticulously detailing the food habits on the ship. 

 

Before the ship "sailed", the people of Stockholm participated in preparing the Vasa for provisions. Peasants supplied raw materials to the crown, in lieu of taxes. Cattle were sent to slaughter; grain, and peas transported in casks. The townsman were obligated to salt meat, bake bread, and brew ale for the needs of the fleet. The navy prepared bread through its own bakery. The Vasa captain, who was also a merchant, supplied hops for the Navy yards beer. Once the boat was to leave inshore water, the crown's provisions were to be used. The historical food story gives the impression that the King and his people were extremely proud of this ship, perhaps even enamored by what the power of this ship meant to the Swedish Naval fleet and to the world. 

 

The food was nutritious but dull; relying heavily on those dried peas and salted meats. Fresh food was critical to the health of the crew, as they could be easily affect by scurvy and other diseases. There was a stated food ration per man, per month that included: 63 liters of ale (burp), 1/2 barrel of bread, 8.5 kg of meat and fried fish, and 16.2 liters of dried peas. The gallery had an open fire to cook the food, which was farthest down in the hold. Since the cook prepared food for the entire crew, there were large cooking vessels onboard. The largest cooking pot was a 215-liter iron cauldron. 

 

As on land, there was a social system on the boat, starting with the captain, down to the lowest level crew member  The senior officers brought their own tableware of pewter, glass, and fine imported pottery called Faience. The officers also brought forks, which were in vogue within Swedish nobility. The working crew shared drinking vessels, mess kits and bowls. There is evidence that some crew members brought their own wooden platters, knives and, spoons. The materials found on board had the owner's marks carved into the items. 

 

A walk through the museum, you will be able to view all of these amazing artifacts, not to mention the 226-foot, fully intact ship that the museum is built around. If you don't find yourself heading to Stockholm anytime soon, peruse the Vasa website http://www.vasamuseet.se/en. 

 

#Sweden #Stockholm #Vasa 

 

 

 

 

 

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