Most people know that buccaneers were a type of pirate. Fewer know that they were a specific group of pirates that mainly harassed Spanish ships and coastal cities in the Caribbean. Finally, only those few people addicted to history and random facts would delve deep enough to discover that the buccaneers were named after cooking utensils used to prepare their favorite food—barbecued, or smoked, meats.
After the Caribbean buccaneers finished a raid on an unfortunate harbor-town, or stole the goods of a merchant vessel, the crews of the pirate ships would find a secluded beach on an island and hunt for food. The most available game for hunting on most Caribbean islands were native amphibious creatures. Fortunately for the buccaneers, they actually had a fondness for turtle. When the crew captured the unlucky turtle of the day (or night), along with anything else they could trap and hunt, they would bring out their boucans (wooden spits) and roast their catch. They would also gather turtle eggs to later be fried in animal fat. Nevertheless, their favorite food, and the meal they were best known for, was the smoked or barbecued meat they prepared with their wooden boucans—hence the name, buccaneers.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail, by Marcus Rediker. Boston: Beacon Press, 2014.