The importance of food at sea cannot be overstated. Britain’s strategy in war relied upon her navy, and the efficiency of the navy was dictated by many things – none more important than ensuring the crew were well fed and therefore healthy. A significant portion of the 5,000 calories a seaman consumed each day came from the main meal of the day, which was either boiled beef with suet pudding, or boiled pork with peas.
This one ‘hot’ meal – by the time the men sat down to eat it was probably cold – was cooked on Victory’s Brodie stove. Regardless of whether you were an admiral or an ordinary seaman, every member of victory’s 821-man crew ate food that had been cooked on this single, surprisingly small stove.
The stove is also equipped with a small copper still, which produces fresh water from salt water. The very small quantities produced in this way would be saved for the men on the sick list.
On the stove’s aft face, an automatic rotating spit powered from a fan in the stove’s chimney could spit roast chickens and pieces of fresh meat. Although not usually part of the ration – salt meat was more common - both officers and men could bring live animals on board to be slaughtered as required. In such a case, spit-roasting, resulting in a far tastier meal than boiling, would usually be employed.