Found on the wreck site of the Henrietta Marie, sank 1700
The Henrietta Marie’s owners and investors planned to transport over two hundred Africans to the Americas every time the ship made the Middle Passage voyage.
The size of the cauldron reflects the number of captives the owners expected to feed. With a capacity of almost a hundred gallons, the pot’s single chamber also indicates the monotony of the captives’ diet. The Africans were usually fed twice a day but they did not receive the same food as the sailors. The first consideration was economy—the captives were to be fed as cheaply as possible in order to maximize profits from the voyage. Secondly, the traders quickly discovered that a European diet of such things as salt meat and ship’s biscuit upset the Africans’ digestion, making them more prone to the acute seasickness and diarrhea that often resulted in death.
West Africa is a vast area in which different regions produced different crops and people ate accordingly. According to Alexander Falconbridge, a slave-ship surgeon, writing in 1788:
“The diet of the negroes, while onboard, consists chiefly of horse-beans, boiled to the consistence of a pulp; of boiled yams and rice, and sometimes of a small quantity of beef or pork. The latter are frequently taken from the provisions laid in for the sailors. They sometimes make use of a sauce, composed of palm-oil, mixed with flour, water, and pepper, which the sailors call slabber-sauce. Yams are the favorite food of the Eboe, or Bight negroes, and rice or corn, of those from the Gold and Windward Coasts; each preferring the produce of their native soil... The horse beans and rice, with which they are fed aboard ship, are chiefly taken from Europe.”