William Dampier was a famous English pirate during the 17th century, mostly his life of piracy was around Mexico and the Bay of Campeche. He went out to the Caribbeans as a young man but saw no future in logging or working on sugar plantations. So quickly fell into a life of raiding New World settlements. Yet he was also a prolific diarist, keeping records throughout his journeys, notably, he kept them safe with the wax-sealed bamboo tube.
And he covered many food writing firsts, such as the first words describing barbecue and chopsticks. He is also seen as the first writer to make a record of the recipe to make guacamole. This was largely due to his capture, spending a year in prison in Spain, he took his notes and wrote a novel. His novel became a bestseller, is one of the first travelogues to be published.
Though piracy is perceived as glamorous in popular culture, the truth is most lived poorly and ate even worse. At best they were facing death, mutiny, and capture on a near-daily basis. This left very little time to prepare food or even try new culinary experiences. The greatest names of piracy such as Captain Blackbeard, ate very poorly provisioned much like a camping trip: dried beef, bread, and bad beer. And the pirates you didn’t hear about, well they succumbed to scurvy and cannibalism. The seas were not the place for people looking for haute cuisine.
However this was not the case for William Dampier, he had a curiosity for food and made sure to exercise it. He invented the words such as tortilla, soy sauce, and breadfruit, and even unknowingly jotted down the first-ever recorded recipe for making the world-famous guacamole. When you look back at it, who better to introduce the Western world to different tastes, than someone who has spent his time hiding in exotic places.
His novel is titled A New Voyage Around The World, which covers groundbreaking observations on subjects that had never really been looked at before such as zoology, navigation, meteorology, and food. One reason Dampier was fairly successful as a pirate is that he ate with locals of the region to learn how to supply his crew with enough food to survive. His book even talks about eating flamingos, penguins or turtles – not something you might find on today’s menu but interesting to read about.