Historically, very significant for sailors, soldiers, pioneers and explorers. You can be sure that hard tack found its way into the pockets of many, from John Franklin to Ernest Shackleton and countless more besides.
The difference between life and death for many.
Flour, salt and water are the ingredients of traditional hard tack. Essentially, unleavened bread that is dry as dust.
Its low water activity makes it very unappealing to microbes; it can survive a very, very, very long time in the hull of a ship, or in your backpack, or in your cupboard.
Purity Factories also makes Sweet Bread, very similar but with the addition of sugar and shortening.
Now, if I found myself lost in the woods and rummaging through my pack for a crumb of sustenance, I would prefer to find a cake of sweet bread than a cake of hard tack. Although, if I 'found myself lost in the woods', I hope the only paradox will be the oxymoron of being both lost and found in the same sentence, otherwise food may be the least of my worries. Just sayin'.
Interestingly, many places around the globe still have their own versions of hard tack.
Alaska has hard tack called Pilot Bread; Alaska's 'soul food'. Pilot bread is manufactured under the name Sailor Boy. It is actually made in Richmond Virginia, but 98% of what is made is sold in Alaska.
Hawaii's version of hard tack is called Saloon Pilot, made by Diamond Bakery. It was brought to Hawaii by a Scottsman whose surname was Love. Aaaah.
Australia has a much-loved version called ANZAC Wafers. According to the Australia War Memorial, they were a staple for the soldiers at Gallipoli, which would have included our own NL soldiers who fought alongside the Australian and New Zealand troops.
It would appear that hard tack has been a survival staple all over the world and itself managed to survive to remain important in some areas.
Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, it is still a critical ingredient in Fisherman's Brewis: plimmed up with water, loaded down with salt fish, tossed together with fried onions and pork fat. Rough grub. Definitely delicious and a far cry from survival food as you don't want to toss that in your pocket any time soon!