Medieval Food and Drink
Medieval Food and Drink
Medieval Food and Drink varied according to status and according to the Medieval period. In the early Medieval era meat was a sign of wealth. The population was rising and this was supported by improving agricultural techniques and inventions. The system of crop rotation of rye and wheat was introduced and the mouldboard plough was invented which cut through the soil and also turned it over resulting in greater efficiency.
Medieval Food and Drink - Daily Meals
The Lord, Lady and Nobles of the castle would eat their food from silverware. Other inhabitants would eat their food from wooden or horn dishes. Every person had their own knife. Spoons were rarely used as any liquid food was drunk from a cup. Forks were not introduced until the late 14th century. The kitchens were usually situated some distance from the Great Hall and therefore food was generally served cold. The number of daily meals eaten during the day were as follows:
- Medieval Breakfast - Food and drink generally served to Lord and castle inhabitants between 6 -7
- Dinner - This was the main meal of the day and food and drink generally served to Lord and castle inhabitants at mid-morning between 12 - 2
- Supper - Was a less substantial meal and food and drink generally served to Lord and castle inhabitants between 6 -7
Medieval Food - Meats and Fish available
Medieval food served in castles included a vast range of different meat and fish. The meats included venison, beef, pork, goat, lamb, rabbit, hare, mutton, swans, herons and poultry. The range of fish included herring, salmon, eel, whiting, plaice, cod, trout and pike. Shell fish also featured in Medieval food and included crab, oysters, mussels and cockles. Only the Lords and Nobles benefited from this vast range of food. The Feudal System dictated that the lands belonged to the Lords and animals were also their property. Only Lords and Nobles were allowed to hunt deer, boar, hares and rabbits. The punishment for poaching the property of a Noble could result in death or having hands cut off.
Medieval Food - Cooking Methods
Medieval food was prepared by several cooking methods:
- Spit roasting
Medieval Food Preservation
There were no methods available to freeze foods so Medieval food varied according to the season. It was not economic to feed animal during the winter therefore animals were slaughtered in the autumn and preserved in salt. The problem was that food had a constant salt taste. Methods were introduced to disguise the salty taste. Spices were added to recipes. These spices included pepper, mustard, saffron, cloves, cardimon and cinnamon. Medieval food was also served with a variety of sauces which also disguised the salty taste. Sugar was not available so honey was used in many Medieval recipes as this was the only sweetener available.
Medieval Food and Drink - Convenience Food?
Did people in the Medieval era have convenience food? Yes! Biscuits were invented by the Crusaders. The 'Ploughman's Lunch' of bread and cheese was a staple diet of workers. Communal ovens were available in villages for baking. And pastries and pies were sold as was ready cooked roasted meat!
Water was not clean in the Middle Ages and people therefore drank wine and ale. The rich drank both and the poor just drank ale. Honey was used to make a sweet alcoholic drink called mead which was drunk by all classes. Wine was generally imported although some fruit wines were produced in England. A form of cider referred to as 'Apple-wine' was also produced.
Medieval Food and Drink - Fasting
People of the Medieval era were highly religious and at certain times the eating of meat was banned. This was not an occasional ban. Certain religious observances banned the eating of meat on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays! Meat was banned during the religious seasons of Lent and Advent. Meat was also declined on the eves of many religious holidays. Fasting and abstaining from eating meat was practised for over half the days in the year! Medieval Food and Drink
The Black Death and Medieval Food and Drink
The amount of food and drink available in the Medieval world changed in 1328. The Black Death spread across Europe and the Western world. And the population dropped - the Black Death claimed a third of the World's population and 200 million people died. The Black Death reached England by 1346 and ravaged the land for nearly 60 years. The Black Death resulted in a far smaller population, more food was available and even the poor were able to eat meat. Medieval Food and Drink
Medieval Food and Drink - A Balanced diet?
Did Medieval food and drink constitute a good balanced diet? No! And especially not for the rich! The rich ate few fresh vegetables and little fresh fruit - unprepared food of this variety was viewed with some suspicion! Fruit was usually served in pies or was preserved in honey. Vegetables and fresh fruit were eaten by the poor - vegetables would have been included in some form of stew, soup or pottage. Little was known about nutrition and the Medieval diet of the rich Nobles lacked Vitamin C and fibre. This led to an assortment of health problems including bad teeth, skin diseases, scurvy and rickets! Medieval Food and Drink
Medieval Food and Drink
The information and facts surrounding Medieval food and drink are fascinating!