Both the Upper and Lower classes generally had three meals a day but the commoners obviously far less elaborate than the Upper Classes. Menus for the wealthy were extensive, but only small portions were taken. A change in culture emerged during the Middle Ages when the travel prompted by the Crusades led to a new and unprecedented interest in beautiful objects and elegant manners. This change extended to food preparation and presentation resulting in fabulous food arrangements and exotic colors and flavorings.
Middle Ages Daily Meals
Royalty and the nobility would eat their food from silverware, and even gold dishes. Lower classes would eat their food from wooden or horn dishes. Every person had their own knife. Spoons were rarely used as any liquid food, such as soups, were drunk from a cup. Forks were introduced in the late 14th century. The kitchens in large houses or castles were usually situated some distance from the Great Hall and therefore food was often served cold. The number of daily meals eaten during the day by the Upper Classes were as follows:
- Breakfast - Food and drink generally served between 6 -7
- Dinner - Food and drink generally served at mid-morning between 12 - 2
- Supper - Was a substantial meal and food and drink was generally served between 6 -7 and accompanied by various forms of entertainment
Middle Ages Daily Meals for the Upper Classes
The daily meals for the Upper Classes during the Middle Ages provided a huge variety of different types of food. Vegetables were limited for the Upper Classes. Only Lords and Nobles were allowed to hunt deer, boar, hares and rabbits and these foods were therefore used in the daily meals of the nobility. Food items which came from the ground were only are considered fit for the poor. Only vegetables such as rape, onions, garlic and leeks graced a Noble's table. A type of bread called Manchet, which was a bread loaf made of wheat flour, was consumed by the Upper classes. Food was highly spiced. These expensive spices consumed by the wealthy included Pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Ginger, Saffron, Cardamon (aka Cardamom ), Coriander, Cumin, Garlic, Turmeric, Mace, Anise, Caraway and Mustard.
Middle Ages Daily Meals for the Lower Classes
The staple diet of the lower classes were bread, pottage ( a type of stew), dairy products such as milk and cheese products and meats such as beef, pork or lamb. The punishment for poaching could result in death or having hands cut off, so the Lower Classes would only poach if they were desperate. The Lower Classes ate rye and barley bread. The poor could not afford to buy the spices so enjoyed by the wealthy. Biscuits were invented by the Crusaders and these were eaten as a convenience food by the workers of the Middle Ages. The 'Ploughman's Lunch' of bread and cheese was also a staple diet of Lower Class workers. Communal ovens were available in villages for baking.
Fasting during the Middle Ages
People of the Middle Ages 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 also 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 of the Medieval year.