'Portable soup' (dried soup block)

A square block of dried soup marked with a Government broad arrow. This early form of stock tablet was made from bones and scraps of meat from cattle killed for making salt beef for the eighteenth-century navy, including their 'unsalted feet and shins'. These were boiled down to a glue-like substance that could be dried and packed in the form shown, then dissolved in hot water when required. Dipping ship's biscuit (see AAB003) in this, or other semi-liquid food, softened that to an easily edible form.

This tablet is of the sort manufactured for the Royal Navy's Victualling Office following a suggestion of Dr James Lind in 1754. He felt that the provision of such 'portable soup' - the term by which it was generally known at the time - would be a valuable anti-scorbutic (anti-scurvy) measure. The composition as envisaged by Lind also included mutton 'to make it more nourishing'. In fact the stock made from these tablets had no significant anti-scorbutic properties, but its use on long voyages by navigators including James Cook and William Bligh did have other benefits. Especially in bad or cold weather, and on meatless 'banyan' days, it made a nutritious base for thick soup including dried peas, celery or oatmeal: it was also often served with 'sour krout' (pickled cabbage) which was also thought to be an anti-scorbutic. The broad arrow identifies it as Government property, to prevent theft.

Object Details

ID: AAB0012
Collection: Miscellaneous Antiquities
Type: Dried soup
Display location: Not on display
Date made: Mid to late 18th century
People: Royal United Service Institution; Cook, James
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Royal United Service Institution Collection
Measurements: Overall: 5 x 112 x 92 mm
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