Magazine article Geographical

Joseph Banks's Cooking Equipment

Magazine article Geographical

Joseph Banks's Cooking Equipment

Article excerpt


The Georgian naturalist and botanist Joseph Banks loved to collect animals, both for museums and for the cooking pot. On his famous voyage around the world with James Cook during the late 18th century, all sorts of specimens ended up on his plate: vultures, turtles, sea birds and, at one point, even the ship's dog.

Unsavoury as it might seem, Banks and his fellow explorers felt that they had to take their protein and vitamins in whatever forms they presented themselves. 'Fresh provision to a seaman must always be most acceptable if he can get over the small prejudices which once affected several in this ship, most or all of whom are now by vertue of good example compleatly curd,' Banks wrote in his journal of the trip.

Whether or not the wildlife was fried up using Banks's cooking equipment isn't recorded, but if it was, it probably tasted better for it. The apparatus contains nearly everything an 18th-century chef on the move could need. Besides the cooker, there are salt and pepper pots, a vinegar bottle, herb and spice containers, and even a flint to get the fire going.

Presumably this allowed him to cook al fresco and, in his journal, he describes deciding where to stop for dinner based on what was available in the trees--at one time, a flock of shags. 'An attack was consequently made on the Shaggs and about 20 soon killd and as soon broild and eat, every one declaring that they were excellent food as indeed I think they were,' he wrote, adding, 'Hunger is certainly [a] most excellent sauce, but since our fowls and ducks have been gone we find ourselves able to eat any kind of Birds (for indeed we throw away none) without even that kind of seasoning.'

Part of a privileged family, Banks must have found the expedition food something of a departure from the meals he would have been served as a child. Born in Lincolnshire to a wealthy landowner in 1743, he was schooled at Harrow and Eton before attending Oxford University.

His love of nature developed early as he wandered among the wildflower meadows, and stayed with him at Oxford, where he brought in a special botany tutor from Cambridge. He then opted out of the usual post-university tour of Europe's antiquities, and instead went to Newfoundland and Labrador to study the region's rocks, birds and plants. In the same year, he joined the Royal Society (he would later serve as president for 41 years) and, in his mid-20s, the society persuaded the Navy to let him join James Cook's first circumnavigation of the globe as head naturalist. …

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