Medieval Recipes During the Late Middle Ages
Have you ever wondered about the medieval recipes used by peasants and nobles? If you said "yes" you are sure to find the information on this page very interesting. We'll be taking a look at the eating habits of peasants and nobles during the late Middle Ages.
The late medieval period is usually considered to be from between 1300 and 1500 CE. We refer to the period after the medieval as the Renaissance or early modern period.
Food in later medieval Europe was more diverse and varied than foods from before, but a number of foods that we are very familiar with today were absent during the Middle Ages.
It wasn't until well into the seventeenth century that New World foods such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, squash and corn were commonly accepted.
Although they were discovered in 1492, near the end of the medieval period, these foods weren't considered fit for European consumption. This means that medieval recipes would have used turnips, parsnips, eggplant and other vegetables where we would expect to use items from the New World.
What people ate in the Middle Ages would also have been different depending on social class.
Medieval Recipes for Peasants
Peasants during this period ate very simply. Meat wasn't readily available most of the time, since livestock was valuable. A portion of the peasant's harvest had to be given to the lord as well. In some cases, this didn't leave a lot left over.
Today we would probably view peasant food as being very bland. Salt and spices tended to be quite expensive during the Middle Ages, although herbs were available. Do the limited choices available there wasn't much differentiation between breakfast, lunch, and dinner food.
The average peasant breakfast probably consisted of whatever was at hand or leftovers from the previous night's dinner.
There's not a lot of information about what the lower classes ate, but we think that savory porridges (pottages) made from grains with vegetables like onions, turnips, and cabbage were a big part of the medieval recipes used by peasants.
Bread was also very important. One account suggests that a working man would eat at least a pound of bread a day. Since water sources were often unsanitary, many of the common people drank very weak beer instead (around 2-3% alcohol). That's not enough to get most people drunk, but it did help to kill bacteria.
Medieval Recipes for Nobles
Most of the cookbooks and accounts of medieval recipes we have were written by people cooking for the nobility. This means that we have a much better idea of what these people ate.
However, there are still quite a few myths. One common myth is the idea that medieval people spiced their food heavily to cover the taste of rotten meat. Since some spices were worth more than gold at that time, it seems unlikely the spices would be used in large amounts to save much less expensive meats.
It's far more likely that medieval nobles simply liked their food very strongly spiced, or that the flavor of these spices had degenerated because of the long way they had to travel.
Most medieval recipes for the nobility involve a lot of meat. Vegetarianism would have been regarded as odd, and was practiced as a form of penance. If you could afford meat, you ate it frequently.
A morning meal of bread, an egg dish, or something similar was likely. Evening meals probably involved roasts, vegetable dishes, and wine. Eating from a piece of bread called a trencher was common. Once the meal was finished, the trenchers could be given to the dogs or to beggars.