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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Diet In Medieval Western Europe

In medieval Britain and Western Europe the daily diet of peasants and the poor urban people was tediously banal. They contented themselves with oatmeal gruel and the basic dish was pottage, a porridge-like stew of peas or beans. Vegetables such as broad beans, cabbage, onions and dried peas improved the daily diets.  Meat was expensive (a leg of roast mutton at a London market costs a day’s wages) and was only eaten on special occasions, when it had to be dried or preserved in fat or salt.

While broth was a basic foodstuff for many Europeans of all classes, the wealthy considered the solids in a prepared dish to be the important ingredient, the liquid was there to keep the solids warm. It was also intended to be a sauce, imparting its own particular flavor, often peppery due to the incorporated mustard and horseradish.

The affluent ate meat on a much more regular basis which if possible were slaughtered just before being cooked. In addition to beef, mutton and pork (often made into sausages), a wide variety of highly spiced game such as bear (often stewed), boar, crane, deer, peacock, pheasant and wild ox were served. The meat was roasted over fires on spits or boiled in pots of boiling water positioned close by the tables and huge quantities were served up whole before the guests. Leeks and later garlic and onions were often used as seasonings but vegetables were seldom eaten separately.

Other popular dishes consumed by the wealthy in Western Europe often include freshwater fish, pies, shellfish, spiced sauces and they would finish with fruit, custard tarts sweetened with honey, nuts, cheese and wafers.

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

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