Medieval Life

Medieval Food

Medieval foods and diets depended much on the class of the individual. For those living in the manor house, there was a wide range of foods available. Fowl such as capons, geese, larks, and chickens were usually available to the lord and his family. They would also dine on other meats; beef, bacon, lamb, and those living close to water may have regularly dined on salmon, herring, eels ands other fresh water fish. Fish would either be sold fresh or smoked and salted. Wealthy society could afford large quantities of milled flour and other meals made from grain. Dairy products such as cheese and butter could be seen on the manor table.

Medieval peasants, on the other hand, had a much simpler diet available to them. Most of the wheat they harvested went exclusively to the market, and peasant breads were made from barley and rye, baked into dark heavy loaves. Ales made from barley would quaff the thirst, as would water drawn from the well, sweetened with honey. Peasant society got what little proteins they could from peas and beans that would be added to bread and pottage.

Pottage was often favored over bread, because it did not require the grains that the miller guarded closely. Onions, cabbage, garlic, nuts, berries, leeks, spinach, parsley were some of the foods that would combined to make thick soup. Raw vegetables were considered unhealthy and rarely eaten, but anything that could grown, with the exception of known poisonous plants, were added to the mix. Lucky families may have added salt pork or fatty bacon for flavor and protein. Poorer society depended on these simple foods for survival. It was ironic that after the Black Death ravaged societies, even the poor could find wheat available.

Medieval diets lacked vitamins A, C and D and were not high in calories, making the regular drinking of ale a necessity for most. The only positive part of these diets, were that they were somewhat "heart-smart;" low in fat and high in fiber. But the medieval world was usually a very hungry one.

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