During the Middle Ages the people ate only the foods that grew on the manor grounds or
could be found in the nearby forests. Transportation limited the variety of foods.
Peasants ate whatever they could grow or catch. Herbs and spices were
used to disguise the taste of old meat.
The meal in the castle was another matter. Peasants planted
vegetables including carrots, lettuce, onions, turnips, peas, cabbage, and
spinach. In the fields
grains were raised such as barley, oats, rye, and wheat. These grains were ground into
flour to use in breads and cakes. The peasants also harvested a number of fruits including
grapes, cherries, plums, and crab apples. Nuts were also a favorite.
Oat-and-vegetable pottage was a mainstay.
The only meat that was eaten was what could be hunted in the manor
forests. The meat was heavily salted or smoked to keep it from spoiling. The most common
meat was pork. Other meats included beef, some fresh fish, and a variety of fowl
including chickens, partridges, peafowl, and pigeons.
Honey was used as a sweetener. Honey was used in the making of cakes
and pastries. Verjuice was a sour
juice made from crab apples or unripe grapes. It tasted much like cider. and was
used as a seasoning.
Favorite drinks included wine, mead and
especially ale, generally home-brewed. Mead was a
fermented drink made from water, honey, malt, and yeast.
Milk from cows or goats was made into cheese.
Only the wealthy lords used goblets and plates made from gold, silver,
or pewter. The less important guests were served on wooden platters called trenchers
or with wooden goblets . These were often shared by two people. At times the trenchers
were made from bread.
When a king was traveling the lord of the manor had no choice but to
prepare a great feast in his honor. The feast was an art. The cooks molded pastries into
elaborate scenes. The food was decorated with food paints. Even blackbirds were hidden in
the pies. They would fly out and amaze the guests. Each new dish was announced by trumpets
and drums. Music and singing were part of the meal. Juggling and dancing were also forms
of entertainment between courses of the meal.
|Salt was very important during the Middle Ages. Kings and
nobles used decorated containers called saltcellars. These containers were placed below
the royalty and most important guests and above the tables with less important guests. The
guests who sat "below the salt" ate on wooden trenchers and were seldom served