Caribbean cuisine was certainly founded by pirates. Images of filibusters as ragamuffins gnawing bugs in some cell, or perhaps scraping the bottom of some barrel adrift in the Caribbean, hunting for prey, or that of pirates getting drunk in front of taverns in Tortuga, Petit-Goave or Port Royal , Jamaica are popular depictions. Certainly such scenes were part of their lives, as theirs were not an easy life at that time, and revelry and orgies formed an integral part of that vision. But it would be a mistake to believe that buccaneers and privateers did not enjoy the refinements of cuisine.
Father Labat Dining with the Pirates
“We dined very merrily and with appetite. I had had wine and brandy brought, but my slave had forgotten the bread. I did not worry too much. I ate as they did, the buccaneers of the cayo, roasted bananas, or boiled with meat and pork fat, accompanying it all with sauces and chili. Whether the air, the road and the novelty had given me more appetite than usual, or the meat was more tender and appetizing, I ate almost four pounds of it. We slept soundly. Hunger woke us up, more than daylight .” These are the words of Father Jean-Baptiste Labat in his best-selling book, Nouveau voyage aux iles de l’Amerique (1742).
Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Labat (1663-1738), a French explorer and historian. Engraving derived from Labat’s work, Nouveau voyage aux isles de l’Amerique (1742) ( Public Domain )
Father Labat was better suited for cooking than for clergy service, partly because he had a formidable appetite. For naval and piracy history lovers, however, the good Father left an irreplaceable record of the Caribbean islands in the days of the epics of the freebooters. Moreover, Labat’s adventures illustrates how that particular geographical sector of the New World was evolving into what is recognized today. Tumult, passions, pulsating and frenetic life, the colors, the tastes – everything seems to have been more intense in the Caribbean than anywhere else in the New World.
Father Labat was sent by the Order of Dominican Friars to the Caribbean in 1694. These were the years at the end of an era of the buccaneers of Hispaniola, the Brethren of the Coast, and the earthquake in Jamaica, at Port Royal, two years earlier, had destroyed much of what the Pope had called the “S odom of the New World .”
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Aaronne Colagrossi obtained a degree in Geological Sciences from the University of Molise with a thesis in geological survey and paleontology. He is the author of several books including Inferno Blu Cobalto (Storia di un pirata)
Top Image : Pirates in a tavern ( smile4u/Adobe Stock )
By: Aaronne Colagrossi
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