People in the Middle Ages got major sources of food from the garden, field and the surrounding territory, similar to today's world. During the Middle Ages, sheep and cattle were mainly used in North Europe. In South Europe, vegetables, herbs and fruits were also used. They used olive oil instead of butter.
During the Middle Ages, the quality, quantity and type of food consumed by the nobility and the royalty was considerably different from the diet of the lower classes. Both the upper and lower classes usually had three meals a day. Royalty and the nobility had food in the silverware or even gold dishes while lower classes ate in the wooden dishes.
Sources of Food in the Middle Ages
Medieval people ate a lot of grains such as barley, oats, wheat and rye. During the Middle Ages, bread was the most important part of the diet. People in the medieval ages made use of fruits, vegetables and herbs that were grown in the small gardens found in every villager's home and every noble's manor.
Livestock such as pigs, chickens, eggs and dairy products like milk and cheese were also important ingredients. People also gathered food from the surrounding land and water. Mushrooms and wild plants were gathered from the fields and woodlands and the meat was obtained by hunting the wild animals.
Nobles used to hunt boar, geese, ducks, and other larger animals. Peasants hunted squirrel, rabbit, pigeon and other small animals. Rivers and oceans were a good source of food including fish, shellfish and seaweed.
During the medieval period, the cooking of the food was conducted in such a way that a person could digest it well and remain healthy. A banquet sometimes consisted of 6 courses. There were some specific rules about how to eat, how to sit and the table manners. People used knives and spoons for eating.
An aperitif was consumed before having the meals in order to prepare it for the heavier food. An aperitif should be dry and hot in nature. Honey or sugar-coated confections made with anise, fennel, cumin, ginger and caraway are a few common examples of aperitif. Wine and almond milk or sweetened milk was also taken before the meals.
Sometimes, lighter roasted meat such as lamb or chicken were included in the meal, followed by the heavier meat as pork and beef with sauces and nuts. A digestive aid known as a dragee was taken post meals that included spiced lumps of sugar, spiced wine or aged cheese.
For a common peasant family, bread and the dishes made from wheat or cereal grains were the staple foods. Sugar and honey were the main spices while vinegar or wine were used as well. Expensive foreign spices were used by the wealthy. Fishes were eaten especially in the Northern areas. Almonds were used as a thickening agent or to produce the almond milk.
The poor people in the Middle Ages used to drink mead, ale or cider, while the rich could drink different types of wines. Beers such as godale beer or small beer were also popular during that age.
Food in the Middle Ages was preserved in various ways. Fish and meat were dried or smoked. Fruits and vegetables were pickled for preservation. Sometimes, fruits and meat were stored together in the barrels. The blazing hearth was the warmest place in the kitchen. Meat and fish were preserved by means of smoking, salting and the cold climes.