We can have unrealistic fantasies about the medieval diet, especially after eating at the restaurant Medieval Times or a Renaissance Faire. Medieval people had some conservative views on cooking, yet they were surprisingly bold with ingredient selection. Scroll down to find out the mysterious medieval diet of nobles and peasants.
Medieval people invented their own version of "fast food," including meat pies, hotcakes, pancakes, and wafers. These were convenient to eat, but their quality was often in question. Researchers at Penn State revealed that "the common view of them [fast food joints] was that they were dishonest and dirty" and that some even tried to "pass beef pasties off as venison."
Though modern food is diverse and delicious, it may be not as heart-healthy as its medieval counterpart. Dr. Roger Henderson's study proved that the "medieval man was at much less risk of coronary heart disease and diabetes than we are today." It's probably because they ate less refined sugar. Dr. Henderson pointed out that the medieval diet was even better than today's popular "Mediterranean" diet.
We can enjoy a hearty breakfast every morning in modern life, yet we would have been seen as a "big ol' glutton" in medieval times. Aquinas thought that people eating too soon in the day had committed the crime of gluttony. Therefore, breakfast was an "affront against God and the self." Folks usually had a square meal in the evening to compensate for the light meals during the day. Laborers were rare exceptions.
A medieval peasant usually had light breakfasts and ate 2-3 pounds of bread and grains and a gallon of (low-alcohol) ale per day, which amounts to around 4,500 calories. However, the last thing you would expect is that they might become obese. They had to work up to 12 hours a day in the summer.
Medieval folks cooked every ingredient, even fruits and vegetables. The Boke of Kervynge ("The Book of Carving") expressed its concerns about raw food, "Beware of green salads and raw fruits, for they will make your master sick." But they were bolder with ingredient selection.
When it comes to medieval cuisines, people usually think of the whole roasted pig at first. That's correct. Pigs were one of the primary sources of meat, and the most notable type was the suckling pig. It sounds cruel but the mother pig's womb was also a delicacy.
With limited domestic animals to choose from, Medieval people were quite imaginative when finding various kinds of meat to eat. Referring to the records, guests of Archbishop Neville of York ate swans, peacocks, roes, pikes, porpoises, and seals.
Like today, people in the Middle Ages would make a feast for Christmas. Poor people had to spend their whole day's wages to buy a goose. No matter rich or poor, all folks would prepare "umble pie," which was the "edible entrails of a deer or other animal made into a pie."
Unlike modern culinary sensibilities, you didn't have to wait till the end of a meal to enjoy dessert, but only the middle class and noble families could have them. The sweet dishes would be served together several times with main courses. A famous dessert was called "sotelty" (subtlety), made from dough or marzipan, often depicting a good theme.
Bread was the staple food for medieval people. Therefore, when commercial bakers united, the baking guild became powerful. Only the bakers who joined the guild and paid their fees were entitled to work in a certain region. The fund would serve collectively as insurance to protect all bakers from risk.
After researchers studied King Richard III's bones, they found out that he had a "high-status diet." The last Plantagenet king of England ate many "fresh-water fish and wildfowl" and wine right up until his death during the War of the Roses in 1485.
Umberto Eco believed that the "cultivation of legumes" provided people with more affordable protein. Thanks to that, Europeans became robust, lived longer, and had more children. Before the widespread cultivation of beans, it was so hard for laborers to get protein legally. The game of the forest had long belonged to the landowners.
Nowadays, "alt-milk" trends among vegetarians and vegans. In medieval times, almond milk was a necessity for nearly every household for religious and practical reasons. During fast days, meat and animal milk would be taboo, and almond and walnut "milk" was a critical ingredient for making butter or other foods. More importantly, almond milk could remain fresher than animal milk.