[36], Fruit was readily combined with meat, fish and eggs. [96], Spices were among the most luxurious products available in the Middle Ages, the most common being black pepper, cinnamon (and the cheaper alternative cassia), cumin, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Since bread was such a central part of the medieval diet, swindling by those who were trusted with supplying the precious commodity to the community was considered a serious offense. Their bread was made from barley. Each had its place within a hierarchy extending from heaven to earth. Freshwater fish such as pike, carp, bream, perch, lamprey and trout were common. [110], Research into medieval foodways was, until around 1980, a much neglected field of study. Hops may have been widely used in England in the tenth century; they were grown in Austria by 1208 and in Finland by 1249, and possibly much earlier. Medieval scholars considered human digestion to be a process similar to cooking. The 14th century cookbook Le Viandier, describes several methods for salvaging spoiling wine; making sure that the wine barrels are always topped up or adding a mixture of dried and boiled white grape seeds with the ash of dried and burnt lees of white wine were both effective bactericides, even if the chemical processes were not understood at the time. Cookbooks, which appeared in the late Middle Ages and were intended mostly for those who could afford such luxuries, contained only a small number of recipes using vegetables as the main ingredient. [13], The caloric content and structure of medieval diet varied over time, from region to region, and between classes. [72], Especially important was the fishing and trade in herring and cod in the Atlantic and the Baltic Sea. Medieval Food. In Medieval times, food was medicine, religion and status. [11] German-speaking areas had a particular fondness for krapfen: fried pastries and dough with various sweet and savory fillings. The upper classes also used wheat flour to make cakes and pies. [25], Olive oil was a ubiquitous ingredient in Mediterranean cultures, but remained an expensive import in the north where oils of poppy, walnut, hazel and filbert were the most affordable alternatives. The latter were especially associated with gambling, crude language, drunkenness, and lewd behavior. By the mid-15th century, barley, a cereal known to be somewhat poorly suited for breadmaking but excellent for brewing, accounted for 27% of all cereal acreage in England. All animal products, including eggs and dairy products (but not fish), were generally prohibited during Lent and fast. In the British Isles, northern France, the Low Countries, the northern German-speaking areas, Scandinavia and the Baltic, the climate was generally too harsh for the cultivation of grapes and olives. They were eaten green or dried, often cooked with bacon or served with meat. French cardinal Jacques de Vitry's sermons from the early-13th century describe sellers of cooked meat as an outright health hazard. Professional cooks were taught their trade through apprenticeship and practical training, working their way up in the highly defined kitchen hierarchy. They were seen as more nutritious and beneficial to digestion than water, with the invaluable bonus of being less prone to putrefaction due to the alcohol content. [111] The heavy use of spices has been popular as an argument to support the claim that spices were employed to disguise the flavor of spoiled meat, a conclusion without support in historical fact and contemporary sources. In warm climates this was mostly achieved by leaving food out in the sun, and in the cooler northern climates by exposure to strong winds (especially common for the preparation of stockfish), or in warm ovens, cellars, attics, and at times even in living quarters. Another common sight at the medieval dinner table was the frumenty, a thick wheat porridge often boiled in a meat broth and seasoned with spices. [35] Overall, most evidence suggests that medieval dishes had a fairly high fat content, or at least when fat could be afforded. In medieval society, food was a sign of social distinction. [30] Although there are descriptions of dining etiquette on special occasions, less is known about the details of day-to-day meals of the elite or about the table manners of the common people and the destitute. Bynum (1987), p. 41; see also Scully (1995), pp. Medieval cookery was described as revolting due to the often unfamiliar combination of flavors, the perceived lack of vegetables and a liberal use of spices. Anise was used to flavor fish and chicken dishes, and its seeds were served as sugar-coated comfits. Interesting Facts and Information about Medieval Foods The food and diet of the wealthy was extensive, but only small portions were taken. The relationship between the classes was strictly hierarchical, with the nobility and clergy claiming worldly and spiritual overlordship over commoners. Smoking or salting meat of livestock butchered in autumn was a common household strategy to avoid having to feed more animals than necessary during the lean winter months. During Lent, kings and schoolboys, commoners and nobility, all complained about being deprived of meat for the long, hard weeks of solemn contemplation of their sins. During particularly severe fast days, the number of daily meals was also reduced to one. In England, they were deliberately introduced by the 13th century and their colonies were carefully protected. Most of these methods had the advantage of shorter preparation times and of introducing new flavors. Poor adults would sometimes drink buttermilk or whey or milk that was soured or watered down. The hierarchical nature of society was reinforced by etiquette where the lower ranked were expected to help the higher, the younger to assist the elder, and men to spare women the risk of sullying dress and reputation by having to handle food in an unwomanly fashion. Before that the pastry was primarily used as a cooking container in a technique known as huff paste. The importance of vegetables to the common people is illustrated by accounts from 16th century Germany stating that many peasants ate sauerkraut from three to four times a day. Yet for almost everything that’s been manufactured you will have to negotiate. A Medieval dinner party could have as many as six meat courses, but the poor could rarely afford meat. "[51], The period between c. 500 and 1300 saw a major change in diet that affected most of Europe. ; 1998, "Food in Medieval Times"; Melitta Weiss Adamson; 2004. It was common for a community to have shared ownership of an oven to ensure that the bread baking essential to everyone was made communal rather than private. By the High Middle Ages breweries in the fledgling medieval towns of northern Germany began to take over production. A Good Roast Alows de Beef Autre Vele en Bokenade Balls or Skinless Sausages Slow transportation and food preservation techniques (based on drying, salting, smoking and pickling) made long-distance trade of many foods very expensive. All classes commonly drank ale or beer. [37] It was considered important to make sure that the dish agreed with contemporary standards of medicine and dietetics. Towards the onset of the early modern period, in 1474, the Vatican librarian Bartolomeo Platina wrote De honesta voluptate et valetudine ("On honourable pleasure and health") and the physician Iodocus Willich edited Apicius in Zurich in 1563. Distillation was believed by medieval scholars to produce the essence of the liquid being purified, and the term aqua vitae ('water of life') was used as a generic term for all kinds of distillates. [55] Carrots were available in many variants during the Middle Ages: among them a tastier reddish-purple variety and a less prestigious green-yellow type. Food from vendors was in such cases the only option. Peas were considered a staple food among the rich and the poor alike. The entire household, including servants, would ideally dine together. Meat was a staple food among the rich, who often enjoyed hunting. [82] Spiced or mulled wine was not only popular among the affluent, but was also considered especially healthy by physicians. Stockfish, cod that was split down the middle, fixed to a pole and dried, was very common, though preparation could be time-consuming, and meant beating the dried fish with a mallet before soaking it in water. Edited from the Ms. S 103 Bibliothèque Supersaxo, (in the Bibliothèque cantonale du Valais, Sion, by Terence Scully, Beth Marie Forrest, "Food storage and preservation" in, Martha Carling, "Fast Food and Urban Living Standards in Medieval England" in, Margaret Murphy, "Feeding Medieval Cities: Some Historical Approaches" in, Hans J. Teuteberg, "Periods and Turning-Points in the History of European Diet: A Preliminary Outline of Problems and Methods" in, Cabbage and other foodstuffs in common use by most German-speaking peoples are mentioned in Walther Ryff's dietary from 1549 and, Adamson (2004), pp. Medieval recipes fed people from all backgrounds. But for most people, almost all cooking was done in simple stewpots, since this was the most efficient use of firewood and did not waste precious cooking juices, making potages and stews the most common dishes. While the nobility ate the more expensive white bread, the lower classes could only afford dark bread, made with sieved or bolted wholemeal flour, which was often mixed with other available grains cultivated as animal fodder, such as barley, rye and oats, or even beans and chestnuts. Porridge, gruel and later, bread, became the basic food staple that made up the majority of calorie intake for most of the population. [88] It was unfiltered, and therefore cloudy, and likely had a lower alcohol content than the typical modern equivalent. Peasants also consumed carrots, turnips and beetroots boiled or as soup. [93] The early use of various distillates, alcoholic or not, was varied, but it was primarily culinary or medicinal; grape syrup mixed with sugar and spices was prescribed for a variety of ailments, and rose water was used as a perfume and cooking ingredient and for hand washing. [41] Few medieval kitchens survive as they were "notoriously ephemeral structures". In England and the Low Countries, the per capita annual consumption was around 275 to 300 litres (60 to 66 imp gal; 73 to 79 US gal), and it was consumed with practically every meal: low alcohol-content beers for breakfast, and stronger ones later in the day. Even if this limited the combinations of food they could prepare, there was still ample room for artistic variation by the chef. The lack of recipes for many basic vegetable dishes, such as potages, has been interpreted not to mean that they were absent from the meals of the nobility, but rather that they were considered so basic that they did not require recording. Though sweeping generalizations should be avoided, more or less distinct areas where certain foodstuffs dominated can be discerned. Sugar, unlike today, was considered to be a type of spice due to its high cost and humoral qualities. The value of these goods was the equivalent of a yearly supply of grain for 1.5 million people. A type of refined cooking developed in the late Middle Ages that set the standard among the nobility all over Europe. The most common and simplest method was to expose foodstuffs to heat or wind to remove moisture, thereby prolonging the durability if not the flavor of almost any type of food from cereals to meats; the drying of food worked by drastically reducing the activity of various water-dependent microorganisms that cause decay. [12], The most ideal food was that which most closely matched the humour of human beings, i.e. A medieval recipe reflects the culture of the people of its time. Geoffrey Chaucer's Hodge of Ware, the London cook from the Canterbury Tales, is described as a sleazy purveyor of unpalatable food. They were of particular value for monasteries, because newborn rabbits were allegedly declared fish (or, at least, not-meat) by the church and therefore they could be eaten during Lent. A meal would ideally begin with easily digestible fruit, such as apples. In the 13th century, English bishop Robert Grosseteste advised the Countess of Lincoln: "forbid dinners and suppers out of hall, in secret and in private rooms, for from this arises waste and no honour to the lord and lady." [86], That hops could be used for flavoring beer had been known at least since Carolingian times, but was adopted gradually due to difficulties in establishing the appropriate proportions. Sugar, from its first appearance in Europe, was viewed as much as a drug as a sweetener; its long-lived medieval reputation as an exotic luxury encouraged its appearance in elite contexts accompanying meats and other dishes that to modern taste are more naturally savoury. Meat, and animal products such as milk, cheese, butter and eggs, were not allowed, only fish. Rice remained a fairly expensive import for most of the Middle Ages and was grown in northern Italy only towards the end of the period. At major occasions and banquets, however, the host and hostess generally dined in the great hall with the other diners. Both the Eastern and the Western churches ordained that feast should alternate with fast. // Leaf Group Lifestyle, "Food and Eating in Medieval Europe"; Martha Carlin et al. Hildegard’s medieval diet rules delineate foods according to their “healing” capabilities. One of the most common constituents of a medieval meal, either as part of a banquet or as a small snack, were sops, pieces of bread with which a liquid like wine, soup, broth, or sauce could be soaked up and eaten. medieval food included verjuice, wine and vinegar, together with sugar and spices. Porridges were also made of every type of grain and could be served as desserts or dishes for the sick, if boiled in milk (or almond milk) and sweetened with sugar. 46–7; Johanna Maria van Winter, "The Low Countries in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries" in, Simon Varey, "Medieval and Renaissance Italy, A. 72, 191–92. [114], The numerous descriptions of banquets from the later Middle Ages concentrated on the pageantry of the event rather than the minutiae of the food, which was not the same for most banqueters as those choice mets served at the high table. For the more affluent, there were many types of specialist that could supply various foods and condiments: cheesemongers, pie bakers, saucers, and waferers, for example. Spiced wines were usually made by mixing an ordinary (red) wine with an assortment of spices such as ginger, cardamom, pepper, grains of paradise, nutmeg, cloves and sugar. [58], Common and often basic ingredients in many modern European cuisines like potatoes, kidney beans, cacao, vanilla, tomatoes, chili peppers and maize were not available to Europeans until after 1492, after European contact with the Americas, and even then it often took considerable time, sometimes several centuries, for the new foodstuffs to be accepted by society at large. Middle ages food: HOW PEOPLE ATE. Judging from the advice given in many medieval documents on how to salvage wine that bore signs of going bad, preservation must have been a widespread problem. Plain fresh milk was not consumed by adults except the poor or sick, and was usually reserved for the very young or elderly. She was the wife of Domenico Selvo, the Doge of Venice, and caused considerable dismay among upstanding Venetians. Utensils were often held directly over the fire or placed into embers on tripods. [23] Monks, especially, frequently suffered from obesity-related (in some cases) conditions such as arthritis. In addition to wild deer, boar, duck and pheasant, the nobility also ate beef, mutton, lamb, pork and chicken. It allowed lords to distance themselves further from the household and to enjoy more luxurious treats while serving inferior food to the rest of the household that still dined in the great hall. [87], Before hops became popular as an ingredient, it was difficult to preserve this beverage for any time, so it was mostly consumed fresh. cheese image by AGITA LEIMANE from Fotolia.com, Copyright © 2020 Leaf Group Ltd., all rights reserved. While Byzantine church officials took a hard-line approach, and discouraged any culinary refinement for the clergy, their Western counterparts were far more lenient. They all had to be imported from plantations in Asia and Africa, which made them extremely expensive, and gave them social cachet such that pepper for example was hoarded, traded and conspicuously donated in the manner of gold bullion. [112] Fresh meat could be procured throughout the year by those who could afford it. [97] While pepper was the most common spice, the most exclusive (though not the most obscure in its origin) was saffron, used as much for its vivid yellow-red color as for its flavor, for according to the humours, yellow signified hot and dry, valued qualities;[98] turmeric provided a yellow substitute, and touches of gilding at banquets supplied both the medieval love of ostentatious show and Galenic dietary lore: at the sumptuous banquet that Cardinal Riario offered the daughter of the King of Naples in June 1473, the bread was gilded. Food should preferably also be finely chopped, ground, pounded and strained to achieve a true mixture of all the ingredients. New techniques, like the shortcrust pie and the clarification of jelly with egg whites began to appear in recipes in the late 14th century and recipes began to include detailed instructions instead of being mere memory aids to an already skilled cook. Overall, fine dining was a predominantly male affair, and it was uncommon for anyone but the most honored of guests to bring his wife or her ladies-in-waiting.