Nursery Rhymes

Middle Ages Food and Diet

Middle Ages - Lords and Ladies

Middle Ages Food and Diet
Did the people of the Middle Ages eat food which constituted a good balanced diet? No! And especially not for the rich! The wealthy nobles ate few fresh vegetables and little fresh fruit - unprepared food of this variety was viewed with some suspicion. Fruit was only 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.

Vegetables which came from the ground were only are considered fit to feed the poor. Only vegetables such as rape, onions, garlic and leeks graced a Noble's table of the Medieval era. Dairy products were also deemed as inferior foods and therefore only usually eaten by the poor. 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.

Middle Ages Food and Diet of the Upper Classes / Nobility
The food and diet of the wealthy was 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. Their 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. The diet of the Upper Classes would have included:

  • Manchet bread
  • A vast variety of meats and game including venison, beef, pork, goat, lamb, rabbit, hare, mutton, swans, herons and poultry
  • Fish - fresh and salt water fish. The range of fish included herring, salmon, eel, whiting, plaice, cod, trout and pike
  • Shell fish included crab, oysters, mussels and cockles
  • Spices
  • Cheese
  • Fruits
  • Limited number of vegetables

Middle Ages Food and Diet of the Lower Classes / Peasants
The Middle Ages food and diet of the peasants was very much home grown. They were unable to afford luxury items such as spices and only Lords and Nobles were allowed to hunt deer, boar, hares and rabbits. The punishment for poaching could result in death or having hands cut off. The staple diet of the lower classes included:

  • Rye or barley bread bread
  • Pottage ( a type of stew)
  • Dairy products such as milk and cheese products
  • Meat such as beef, pork or lamb
  • Fish - if they had access to freshwater rivers or the sea
  • Home grown vegetables and herbs
  • Fruit from local trees or bushes
  • Nuts
  • Honey
Middle Ages Food
Middle Ages Index

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