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  • Life in the Middle Ages could be tough. But, like  today, if you were rich life was a little easier,  

  • especially when it came to food. Imagine  sitting at a table and servers bringing  

  • out sculptures made of sugar. Then  a feast of exotic food, spices,  

  • and wine are brought out. This may seem like  something from a high end restaurant of today,  

  • but in fact, this was how the  wealthy ate during the Middle Ages.  

  • It may surprise you just how diverse their  diets were, and what they actually ate.  

  • You may even find the food so deliciousthat you switch over to the Middle Ages Diet.

  • Let's be clear, not everyone ate as good as  the nobles and aristocrats of the Middle Ages.  

  • This was a handful of elites who had the  wealth and resources to enjoy fine dining  

  • whenever they wanted. The peasants on the  other hand had a much more mediocre diet  

  • consisting of low meat content and  high amounts of breads and vegetables.  

  • But if you were lucky enough to be  wealthy, you could eat like a king.

  • If you were rich you owned land; most likelylot of it. An aristocrat with an estate would  

  • have access to domesticated animals that could  be freshly killed, crops that could be harvested,  

  • and natural resources from the land, such as  wild game and fish. If you were a peasant you  

  • most likely worked on one of these estatesbut the resources were not available to you.

  • It is a misconception that the food in the  Middle Ages was bland and non-diverse. In fact,  

  • the wealthy people of the Middle Ages would  rarely eat the same dish twice in one week.  

  • The dishes were made with rich spices such as  caraway, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, and pepper.  

  • These spices could be mixed and matched with  different meats and vegetables to make a  

  • veritable number of dishes. Other commonly used  accoutrements to meals would include cane sugar,  

  • almonds, and dried fruits. Many  of these items came from other  

  • lands such as North Africa and East  Asia and were extremely expensive.

  • Some rich people in the Middle Ages even had  large stores of spices filling entire rooms.  

  • There was even a department of the royal  court that was called thespicery,”  

  • whose sole purpose was to buy, maintain, and store  spices for the food that was prepared for royalty.  

  • In fact, the rich and royal loved spicy sauces  so much that entire professional careers could  

  • be made out of sauce making. If a saucemaker  could create flavorful sauces, they were sure  

  • to find employment in the kitchens of some of the  most wealthy and powerful men in all of Europe.

  • If you were rich in the Middle Ages every  dish you ate would be adorned with spices,  

  • but the actual food would vary. A favorite dish  of both rich and poor was called pottage. It was  

  • a thick stew that contained meat, vegetables, and  bran. If you were rich this dish often contained  

  • cereal and frumentry, which was wheat boiled in  milk and then seasoned with cinnamon and sugar.  

  • When prepared this way the dish was  called mortrew. Along with the stew,  

  • and almost every meal, the rich would  eat bread. The elite would eat breads  

  • made from only the best grains, while  everything else was left for the peasants.

  • Bread also played another important  role in the dining of the rich;  

  • it could be used as a plate or bowl. This  was sometimes referred to as a trench.  

  • Thick slices of bread were hollowed out and  soup or a meal was served in the bread bowl.  

  • This would allow the aristocrat to  have his meal and eat his bowl too.

  • When it came to meat, the more exotic the  better. Peasants rarely had access to meat,  

  • and what they did have was normally the worst  cuts of pork. But for the rich in the Middle  

  • Ages their choice of meat was only limited by  their imagination. They would eat roast peacock  

  • dressed in a cloak made of its own feathers, beef  that required vast amounts of resources to raise,  

  • and salted fish from the coastal regionsNobles also had access to chickens and pork,  

  • which would be prepared in different ways to  ensure that the meals did not become boring.

  • Pies were also consumed often by the  aristocrats in the Middle Ages. However,  

  • like all their food, the rich wanted the  presentation to be sublime. The pies would  

  • be baked or constructed in different shapes  such as castles, surrounded by a moat of wine.

  • Contrary to popular belief, the rich during  the Middle Ages did not eat with their hands,  

  • or throw food over their shoulders when they were  done. There was actually specific eating etiquette  

  • that diners, including the rich, were  required to follow. Children were taught  

  • to wash their hands before meals, and to  use a spoon and knife while eating. Also,  

  • it was important to wipe one's mouth throughout  the meal to make sure that food was not left on  

  • the face. The noble class had a plethora of  books just on table manners. The floors were  

  • regularly swept after meals to remove any fallen  food, and leftovers were fed to dogs and pigs.

  • No meal would be complete during the Middle  Ages without alcohol. People during this time  

  • period drank lots and lots of alcoholThe rich would have their pick of wines,  

  • ales, and liquors. However, these drinks  were very weak by our standards today,  

  • so someone would have to consume large  amounts of alcoholic beverages before  

  • succumbing to drunkenness. One plus side  of the fermentation process was that  

  • it killed many water-borne diseases  and bacteria. This reduced illness,  

  • so drinking alcoholic beverages was oftentimes  preferable to drinking water, even for children.

  • Being rich in the Middle Ages meant you had  resources and the ability to throw parties.  

  • No wealthy family would go too  long without having a banquet.  

  • This is where the most extravagant dishes  were made, and the most spectacular culinary  

  • sculptures were built. It was during banquets  the noblemen would show off their wealth,  

  • and try to impress everyone who was  present. The more extravagant the banquet,  

  • the more people would talk, and the social  status of the party thrower would be elevated.

  • Banquets were slightly different from the  normal meals of the aristocrats during  

  • the Middle Ages. For one thing there  were a lot more people in attendance;  

  • for another there was a lot more foodEvery table would be covered in jellies,  

  • pies, and fritters as soon as guests sat downDuring the Middle Ages meals were not separated  

  • into savory courses followed by sweet desserts  like they are today. Almost all dishes were  

  • laid out together, so the guests could have  whatever looked most appetizing at the time.

  • Banquets were where the most extravagant food art  was presented as well. Tables would be adorned  

  • with fully edible sugar sculptures known as  sotiltees. The works of art would be in the forms  

  • of castles, ships, and even famous philosophersThe sotiltees were also known aswarners,”  

  • because they were served at the start of a banquet  to inform guests that dinner was approaching. This  

  • would indicate that everyone should take their  seats and prepare for the meal of a lifetime.

  • Main courses at banquets were meant to shock and  awe the guests. The more memorable the banquet,  

  • the better for the rich noble who threw it. Main  courses would consist of a plethora of meats and  

  • vegetables. Spices would adorn every dish to  make them unique; the hope would be that it was  

  • something the guests had never experienced  before. There would also be exotic animals  

  • to eat such as seal, porpoise, and even whale  if they could be procured. The more difficult  

  • the animal was to obtain, the higher it bolstered  the prestige of the nobleman throwing the feast.  

  • One banquet could contain more food thanpeasant family would eat in an entire year.

  • Banquets were classy affairs and the host  would have to put in a large amount of his  

  • own resources. Therefore, guests were required  to follow certain etiquette as well. There were  

  • a number of special courtesy books written during  the Middle Ages on how guests of a banquet should  

  • act. Diners were nor supposed to fart, scratch bug  bites, or pick their nose while at the banquet.  

  • If these rules were broken the person could be  escorted out of the hall and may not be invited  

  • back to subsequent parties. That was why it was  important to never offend the host of a banquet,  

  • and stick to the basic etiquette  of fine dining in the Middle Ages.

  • There were several intricacies and quirks  to food in the Middle Ages. The rich in  

  • particular were always on the cutting edge of  fine culinary cuisine of the time. But, there  

  • were certain preparations and foods that were  consistent across the aristocrats. For example,  

  • all fruit and vegetables were cooked during the  Middle Ages. This was because they believed that  

  • raw produce could cause diseases. Warnings in  cookbooks such as The Boke of Kervynge, written  

  • around the year 1500, warns that uncooked fruits  and veggies could make the chef's master sick.

  • Jellies and custards were a favorite for all  peoples during the Middle Ages. The rich would  

  • require that they were created in a way that was  more extravagant than the stuff the peasants were  

  • consuming. Oftentimes these dishes were dyed with  vivid colors. The cooks would use sandalwood for  

  • a deep red, saffron for a radiant yellow, and  boiled blood to make a dish completely black.  

  • The coloring of foods did not just  stop at jellies and custards though.  

  • Even dishes such as meatballs and deserts  were given vibrant colors to make the simple  

  • dishes stand out in a unique way. If  the noble was rich enough they would  

  • even procure a flower from the Mediteranian  called turnsole to make the food purple.

  • We know all about food in the Middle Ages because  a number of cookbooks have survived from the time  

  • period. Obviously these cookbooks were written  for the creation of meals for the wealthy.  

  • The large variety of cookbooks goes to show  how important food was at this time in history.

  • The very first English cookbook ever, The Forme  of Cury, was written in 1390 by the Chief Master  

  • Cooks of King Richard II. It is in these cookbooks  that the most extravagant dishes were recorded,  

  • and the tricks of the trade were passed downIt would also seem that during the Middle Ages  

  • culinary traditions were important across  other parts of the world. Cookbooks such as  

  • the Kitab a-Tabikh was written in Arabia in  the 10th century, Le Viander was written in  

  • 12th century France, and Liber de Coquina was  used by cooks in Italy during the 14th century.  

  • Food for the rich during the Middle Ages was  so important that it needed to be written down.

  • Not everyone during the Middle Ages ate so well  however. Most peasants and people from lower  

  • classes could not read, and therefore, recipes  were passed down by word of mouth. We do know  

  • that unless you served a large estate, or someone  who was incredibly rich, that fresh meat was hard  

  • to come by for poor people. Most peasants ate  foods that were preserved through pickling or  

  • by using salt. Once an animal was slaughtered, or  a crop was harvested, it had to last the peasants  

  • a very long time since they wouldn't know when  their next chance for fresh food would come. This  

  • meant everything was preserved so that it could be  eaten at a later date. Bacon, pickled herring, and  

  • preserved fruits would be some of the best food  the poor could hope for during the Middle Ages.

  • Just like today life was easier for the rich back  then. They could afford to spend massive amounts  

  • of money and resources on the most extravagant of  meals. The chefs of the rich biggest problem was  

  • not lack of variety, but in finding ways  to make each dish unique and different.  

  • Nobles ate food that was both visually pleasing  and tasteful. Exotic meats and intricate sugar  

  • sculptures were served to aristocrats while they  drank wine and ale to their heart's content.  

  • It would seem that rich people in the Middle  Ages ate better than many people do today.

  • Now check outWhy You Wouldn't Survive  In Medieval time.” And after that  

  • watchWhy Teenage Life In  The Middle Ages Sucked.”

Life in the Middle Ages could be tough. But, like  today, if you were rich life was a little easier,  

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Medieval Meals You Wouldn't Want to Eat - What Did Rich People Eat in the Middle Ages?

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    Summer posted on 2021/03/30
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