I imagine every sailor has at least one story about surviving on a single exotic and/or nightmarish foodstuff for days. My own tale of woe involves a seemingly endless supply of Batchelors savoury rice served every day for what seemed like weeks, as we drifted slowly across the Hebridean sea during a windless heatwave. I was 13. I have never eaten savoury rice again – and never will.
Since they are about to disappear into the Frisian sand for days on end, Carruthers & Davies know that they’re going to have to stock up on supplies that won’t go off too quickly. Tinned food is a must. The kind of German sausage that could have a half-life is also on the list. And then curiously, our heroes opt to stock up on… cigars? I can only think they believed – as many do – that tobacco curbs the appetite, thus reducing the total amount of food needed on board.
Tinned food in the early 1900s was still something of a novelty. Heinz tinned baked beans, for example, only started to appear on the shelves of Fortnum & Mason in 1886. (Heinz’s parents btw were Bavarian – another of many examples of the German diaspora influencing our story).
Certainly tinned meat revolutionised food on boats. Before tins, sailors who wanted meat would have largely relied on salted dried meat on long voyages. It took a while for the tinning process to be reliable, though. The ill-fated Franklin expedition to the Arctic in 1845 was fuelled partly by tinned food; sadly, it’s suspected that some dodgy tins might have ended up giving some of the officers lead poisoning.
As products became safer and more reliable Antarctic explorers like Shackleton and Scott were keen users of tinned goods. Scott had a particular yen for tins of golden syrup – for all the good it did him in the end.
Winding forward in history, tinned meat was also a staple of the German army during WW2. It’s noticeable, too, that current day survivalists, who are waiting for SHTF, are keen on stocking up on tinned foods. Here, for example, is a very useful guide to tinned food that suggests if you want to survive the coming apocalypse, you better have a lot of tins of pink salmon.
In the case of Carruthers and Davies, I’m confident they would have bought local delicacies such as tinned lunch tongue and brawn – the latter known in America as ‘head cheese’. Thanks to the influx of Baltic Poles into south London and the rise of continental supermarket chains such as Lidl and Aldi, I’m rather spoilt for choice when it comes to head cheese. There’ll be no problem re-enacting this part of the book, should we wish to. (Lloyd is not keen – he’s rather hoping there’s a McDonalds in Kiel)
Since we’re almost certainly going to be travelling on bikes rather than on a boat at this point, we won’t have the logistical problem of how to store all our food. This appears to be something of a fine art for many sailors – making sure that the weight distribution is correct, ensuring no salt water gets into the food, and preventing tins from rolling around or flying about in bad weather. Here’s a great article on storing tins on boats, for example: http://theboatgalley.com/store-food-boat-part-9-canned-goods/.
When it comes to sausage, there’s very little doubt that the local offer in 1898 would have been knackwurst – a smaller slightly spicier version of a frankfurter. These days,all around the Baltic coast and beyond, it’s ‘kielbasa’ that is the staple sausage. It’ll be hard to avoid in Kiel, I suspect, even though it’s really Polish in origin.
As for cigars, I believe the most popular brand of cigar in Germany right now is Danemann Moods (which are actually cigarillos, but never mind). Gerhard Danemann is another late 18th century German who took his know-how across the Atlantic and built a global business. In his case, he took his experience of working in German tobacco warehouses to Brazil. By the time of ‘The Riddle of the Sands’, Danneman was already a big Brazilian cigar brand, and very popular back home in Germany (mentioned by Thomas Mann in one of his books, no less). Gerhard had become so enamoured with South America that he even changed his name to Geraldo.
So it’s not just cads like Dollman who are rather fluid with their identity at this time. Even the cigars are not to be trusted.