Food and Celebrations

No celebration on board a whaleship topped the custom of filling the thousandth barrel of oil. It was tradition on most American vessels to celebrate with a big batch of doughnuts fried in whale oil. More like "nuts made of dough", they didn't always have holes. After the cook mixed the dough, the "nuts" would be fried in the try pots full of fat for all to enjoy.

In August, 1858, Henrietta Deblois described her 1000th barrel doughnut experience on board the Tiger: "Today has been our doughnut fare, the first we have ever had. The Steward, Boy and myself have been at work all the morning. We fried or boiled three tubs for the forecastle - one for the steerage. In the afternoon about one tub full for the cabin and right good were they too, not the least taste of oil – they came out of the pots perfectly dry. The skimmer was so large that they could take out a 1/2 of a peck at a time. I enjoyed it mightily."

On most American ships, Independence Day was celebrated on July 4th, at least in the main cabin. Elizabeth Waldron wrote from the Arctic on board the Bowditch in 1853 that they had 'roast lamb "alias" pig for dinner with a top of apple pie' in honor of that day.

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Martha's Vineyard Museum