Want to find out the most popular food in medieval times? The wine was the most prized beverage of medieval times.
While most people now consider breakfast, lunch and dinner essential meals that must be eaten, medieval times saw food availability dependent on the individual’s wealth.
People used to starve to death when there was a shortage of food. Storing food was a major problem, even if there was plenty. Although many methods were tried in medieval times to preserve meat, such as salting it and drying grapes to make raisins, only a few items could be preserved.
Middle Ages Foods and Diets of Peasants
Cereals, and especially barley, were the mainstay of medieval cuisines. Bread became the people’s main food, and the majority of them started to eat bread. In the 14th century, 70-80% of calories were provided by pasta, gruel and barley bread.
Cereals were common in all classes. Wheat products are costly and therefore are primarily consumed by the wealthy. The lower classes mainly used barley and millet.
In medieval times, bread was a cheap source of calories. People could eat as much as 4 pounds of grain per day, mainly bread and barley. This included porridge and loaf. Whole grains are some of the most nutritious foods you can eat. Did you know that whole grain can make junk food like pizza healthier?
Later, beans were added to their diets, and the most vulnerable people had the opportunity to increase their protein intake. The upper classes felt the peasants weren’t worthy of such nutritious food, and they would be faced with a shortage of nutrient-rich food. The diet plan for the lower classes included:
- Carrots and Cabbage
They ate vegetables like cabbage and carrot. They ate fruits, but they were not available all year.
Because it didn’t need to be made from milled flour, only dark bread was available for the lower classes. Bread is a staple food for all classes, but quality varies depending on the grain used.
Because pork was the only form of meat available at that time, lower-class people preferred it. Preserved foods that were pickled within a short time after slaughter, such as pickled herring or bacon, were eaten by most people, especially the poorer classes of medieval society.
Peasants used dairy products like buttermilk and cheese to feed their cows.
Drinks from the Lower Class
The Romans used barley to make beer. Plain milk was reserved for the sick and the poor. Fresh milk was not available due to the absence of technology to prevent it from spoiling.
People who cannot afford wine can drink beer and ale. People of all classes and ages drank beer in England, Poland, and Northern Germany. Although beer was thought to hurt the body, it doesn’t cause false thirst like wine.
Contrary to popular belief, the food of upper-class people was quite different from that of lower classes. Freshly killed meat was consumed along with fresh fruits and vegetables. Their dishes were also flavoured with spices such as cardamom and ginger. Let’s dive deeper into medieval foods enjoyed by upper-class people.
Middle Age Foods and the Diet of Upper Class
Banquet tables were set up with food, allowing the upper classes to showcase their wealth. Parties featured jellies, cakes and stews, and custards with natural colours like saffron for a bright yellow or sandalwood for a red. Majorly, almonds were used in thickening sauces and stews.
Sugar sculptures, also known as subtleties, were the most popular food on the tables. Sugar sculptures could be made in many shapes, including famous philosophers, castles, and ships. Stiles was the main dish at medieval feasts. Sugar sculptures were created to serve guests and demonstrate the host’s importance.
The use of spices was a sign of luxury, wealth and success. According to the history of medieval life, bizarre dishes such as a swan that had its internal organs removed and was cooked with many types of meat. The dish was then brought into the hall with a stunning presentation. The upper classes had a diet plan that included:
Fish was enjoyed by all classes but was most popular among the wealthy.
The upper classes ate chicken and goat as their primary meats.
- Fruits and Vegetables
In medieval times, the wealthy did not eat fruits or vegetables. They ate dates, raisins, and figs instead. They were less interested in vegetables because they are less nutritious.
They suffered from tooth decay, heart disease, and other ailments due to a lack of essential nutrients from fruits and veggies.
- Rice Dishes
In the 15th century, huge quantities of rice were being produced in Italy. The dish wasn’t just plain rice. It was made with fish and chicken and a variety of spices. Rice was sometimes combined with almonds or rice flour to create a rice pudding.
The drinks of the upper class
Because the water was not always clean, rich people preferred to drink wine. Because it was extremely expensive, the best quality wine was reserved only for the elite and not accessible to the lower classes. Wines made from myrtle, rosemary, and wine were often flavoured with honey. The wine was also used to treat many diseases. While red wine was thought to be the best for digestion, doctors recommended that patients drink mulled or spiced wine to treat health issues.
Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from water, honey and yeast. Depending on the recipe, Mead can be made with spices or grain mash.
Middle Ages People’s Digestive Beliefs
Middle-aged people believed lighter foods should be eaten first, as heavier foods take longer to digest and can block the digestion of other foods. Fruits are eaten first, followed by nuts, meats, and vegetables.