Cooking Activity: Ship's Biscuit

Cook with your students or bring ship's biscuit in for your students to try. Biscuit was hard bread that Constitutionís sailors ate at nearly every meal. It was baked on land, stored on board the ship, and then issued at sea to the sailors. It kept for a long time in barrels and one has even survived (albeit preserved with shellac) over 100 years. Ask your students: would it serve better as a hockey puck? Sailors soaked biscuit in their stew, and it was also used as an ingredient in many shipboard-recipes.

Cooking Activity: Sailor Snack Time

Enjoy a sailor's treat with your students. Try a recent adaptation of duff, a sailor's pudding, originally made with suet and flour. You can also try hot chocolate, another treat, this time with an 1812-period recipe.

Feeding 480 Mouths: Math aboard Ship

Feeding 450 hungry sailors is no easy task. It's especially tough when Constituition has been at sea for a month, and supplies are salted or dried. Cook William Long does his best, sweating and swearing at a huge hot beast of a stove in the galley. The food he serves changes little each day, but it's hot and plentiful. And though seamen moan about the endless dull dishes, they eat better than their families ashore.

A Sailor's Diet in Weights
and Measures

Students practice their weights, measures, volumes and charts in this lesson plan. Read a primary source with students and then measure real ingredients with scales and beakers to see the real daily diet quantities a sailor ate.


Every sailor on Constitution is part of a 12-strong family called a mess. "Messmates" are not related, but they might as well be, for they are as close as brothers. Each mealtime, they gather in the same spot on the berth deck, spread out a cloth, and sit round it cross-legged to share their food. In a mess, everyone is equal, whatever their age or rank, and they can choose their messmates. This is a rare freedom in a world where officers control almost everything else they do.

Daily Diet Intake: A Sailor in 1812 and You!

Have your students record a detailed log of what they eat during a 24-hour period, including snacks and beverages. Afterwards, compare examples of your students’ Daily Diet Logs to the food that was allotted to a sailor aboard Constitution in 1812. How is a sailor's daily diet different from a student’s? What has changed over time, and why? Take this activity a step further to include the intake of calories per day, comparing a student’s intake to an 1812 sailor’s, and even to a modern combat ration.