Feb 142014



Today is the anniversary of the death of James Cook, English naval captain and explorer.  The details are not entirely clear.  He had been on good terms with indigenous Hawaiians for some time, and sailed off with their blessing. But he had to return because his foremast had broken. His return was apparently unwelcome.  One of his cutters was stolen.  As he had done in Tahiti he took a hostage in order to get the cutter back. He tried to take the Alii ‘Aimoku (ruler or king) — Kalaniʻōpuʻu. – who  was apparently willing to help by being a hostage.  But several of his subjects attacked Cook.  He was beaten savagely by a club from behind, then stabbed in the back 8 times.

The esteem which the islanders, nevertheless, held for Cook caused them to retain his body. Following their practice of the time, they prepared his body with funerary rituals usually reserved for the chiefs and highest elders of the society.  They carefully preserved his bones and returned them to his crew for a formal burial at sea.

All a bit grisly.  One of his shipmates wrote,  “He was a modest man, and rather bashful; of an agreeable lively conversation, sensible and intelligent. In temper he was somewhat hasty, but of a disposition the most friendly, benevolent and humane. His person was above six feet high: and, though a good looking man, he was plain both in dress and appearance. His face was full of expression: his nose extremely well shaped: his eyes which were small and of a brown cast, were quick and piercing; his eyebrows prominent, which gave his countenance altogether an air of austerity.”


My readers will appreciate the irony in not posting a recipe in honor of a man named Cook.

Small extra — “Captain Cook” is  rhyming slang in Australia for “look.”

Well, today is also St Valentine’s Day so eat some chocolate.



  2 Responses to “James Cook Dies”

  1. You might include a recipe for making Sauerkraut, these days considered a Superfood because of its high levels of vitamins C and A. Cook’s insistence that his sailors eat it kept them from contracting scurvy.
    I have made it successfully with Chinese cabbage. All utensils and workspaces must be scrupulously clean. Place a cabbage leaf at the base of a large wide-mouthed glass jar. In a non-reactive dish place finely shredded cabbage, avoiding the darker outer leaves. To the shredded cabbage add 4 tablespoons of cooking salt. Massage the salt through the cabbage until juices run freely. Pack the mixture on top of the cabbage leaf int the jar and cover with another cabbage leaf. Cover with a plate and a weight so that the cabbage is submerged under the cabbage brine . Put a clean cloth over the jar and leave in a cool place for 12 to 14 days. A handful of caraway seeds stirred through the cabbage brine mixture before packing into the jar helps with the preservation, they say, but I don’t like the taste of them. Rinse but do not over-heat the finished Sauerkraut or some of the vitamins will be destroyed.

    • Indeed — Cook was the first captain to understand that vitamin C prevented scurvy, He may not have understood why. But he put lime juice in the drinking water. Why Brits are called LImeys.

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