Young Pirates Show Their True Colors

Robin Seeley Historically, pirates often displayed the identifying colored flags of other ships or nations, thereby not showing their true colors. But Abby, Roan and Julian gladly displayed the skull and crossbones (and their true colors) on the eve of Talk like a Pirate Day.


Monday, Sept. 19 was officially “Talk like a Pirate Day.” As in “AAAARRR! ”The annual holiday inspired the young chefs of the Culinary Academy of Post Street. We quickly found a ready role model: local pirate and Queen Elizabeth I’s favorite, Sir Francis Drake! Both a hotel in San Francisco’s Union Square and a local bay bear his name, so these clues prompted further exploration. What is Sir Francis Drake’s connection to the Bay Area?

We know that in 1579, Sir Francis Drake’s ship, Golden Hind, sailed up the California coast. Drake’s Bay in Point Reyes memorializes that voyage. But Sir Francis never entered our incredible bay — with its arms extending 60 miles to the south, 60 miles to the north and 60 miles to the east. At a time when most commerce was conducted by ship, it would have been quite a find.

How could a smart guy like Sir Francis Drake have missed San Francisco Bay? You’ve probably already guessed that fog is the most likely culprit. But even on a clear day, the relatively narrow opening at the Golden Gate, when viewed from a distant ship, is not really visible. Why not? Because Alcatraz Island, Angel Island and the mountains beyond appear to fill in the gap. 

That’s why it took almost two more centuries for the first European ship to enter San Francisco Bay: the San Carlos, sailing under the flag of Spain in 1775. Captain Manuel de Ayala was following up on the reports from the Portolá party, the land expedition that discovered the bay in 1769.

Was Drake really a pirate? You bet! He was notorious for raiding Spanish galleons for treasure, although he also engaged in more- or-less legitimate business for his queen.

What better way to honor this villain of the high seas than by getting in touch with the pirate within! Like their roguish role model, Abby, Roan and Julian sought golden treasure, but in the bottom of a cup instead of in the hull of a ship. 

They stowed chocolate doubloons wrapped in golden foil in the bottom of a paper drinking vessel, buried them for safe-keeping under a mound of chocolate pudding, and topped it all off with crushed Oreo cookies to complete the camouflage. They stuck in a gummiworm or two for added authenticity. Voilà! Buried treasure under a pile of dirt and mud.

Next step? Digging it up with a spoon. The young chefs also baked skull and crossbones cookies, complete with red fruit leather bandanas. Munching on both buried treasure and the infamous Jolly Roger? What better way to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day? Aaaarrr!




Robin Seeley runs a tight ship aboard Alameda’s Culinary Academy of Post Street.