Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dinner in the Galapagos, 1835

Since our return from the Galapagos, I've been thinking about early voyages that obviously didn't make sure their passengers would dine as if they were in a fine restaurant in any city in the world -- as ours did. I read this account of mariners onshore in the Galapagos, from the book Nimrod of the Sea by William Davis, of a voyage in 1835.
A somewhat hasty dinner of fried terrapin scarcely interrupted the coming and going of the carriers, and an hour before sunset a boat loaded to the water's edge with our spoils was dispatched to the ship. We who remained ahsore prepared beds of dried grass under the tent, while the cook make a savory mess of terrapin-meat, with the sweet, golden fat, the rich, melting liver, potatoes, and onions. As the savory odors swept athwart my nose, I almost lost heart and appetite in the roasting of an iguana nearly three feet long, and as thick around as a man's leg. As I turned and basted the horrible beast, it was with less and less stomach for the feast.

Luxurious dogs that we were, to our roast iguana and terrapin stew we added the conger-eels, and craw-fish as large as our lobsters, and equally good. At the going down of the sun, a ravenous crew, seated on the convenient backs of terrapin, gathered about a feast to be treated by fork and spoon, not by stupid pen.
Our trip was different in every way from the voyages of the seamen and explorers of early days. Protection of tortoises, iguanas, and every other creature on the Galapagos means that the only local foods are from the few cattle ranches and from small-scale fishermen. Similar thoughts occurred to me as I was reading Moby Dick -- when the whalers in caught their first whale of the voyage, the cook was roused in the middle of the night to make a whale-meat dinner for some of the crew, who had strong ideas about just how the cooking should be done. These meats are no longer allowed as food for conscientious travelers.

One can view these historic travelers who ate so many tortoises and harpooned so many whales as environmentally unaware, but we may be much worse: all our luxury derives from the use of oil. We fly, we travel in diesel or gasoline-powered taxis or ships, and we drink and bathe in desalinated water. Much of the food we ate was probably flown from the mainland. It's painful to think about the environmental result of our own actions -- currently destroying the Gulf of Mexico.

1 comment:

~~louise~~ said...

Here, here...and let's not forget that everything from laundry detergent to water bottles only binds us to oil all the more...It's simply amazing how many products are the off spring or oil based. Incredible!

I must admit, though, I'm sure glad we don't have to worry about, any "ravenous crew" gorging on terrapin stew.

Thanks for sharing, Mae...and on that note, nighty night:)