The disgusting Middle Ages: what was then eaten at rich feasts and in poor shacks

 The disgusting Middle Ages: what was then eaten at rich feasts and in poor shacks

Speaking of a medieval meal, they usually immediately imagine a long table laden with dishes and bearded men fiercely biting their teeth into huge pieces of meat. How close was this picture to reality? “Subtleties” found out.

Remember, son, the golden words…

The basis of the medieval diet was bread, especially for peasants and poor clergy. The most expensive was wheat, it was eaten by aristocrats and wealthy merchants. People were simply content with rye, oatmeal or barley, generously diluting flour with legumes, bran and acorns in lean years. Medieval healthy lifestyle is not from a good life. At the same time, the idea came up to use bread as a plate: wealthy townspeople were served a stale slice of bread with a recess for eating in the center, while the peasants simply ate from flat cakes. In rainy years, the rye crop was often affected by ergot. The use of such grain caused severe poisoning – ergotism, leading to gangrene (“fire of St. Anthony”) or to convulsions (“witch writhing”). The poisoned person had hallucinations, he became aggressive, and his behavior was often mistaken for obsession.

Plain water was not drunk in the Middle Ages: its purity caused justified fears.

Soup and porridge are our food

Porridge appeared on medieval tables almost more often than bread. It was included in the diet of all classes, but differed in composition depending on the wealth of the family. To know ate porridge from wheat; if milk and/or sugar were added to the dish, it was considered dessert. Peasants usually cooked porridge from oatmeal.

Soups and stews were popular. Everything that was in the house was thrown into the pot: vegetables, leftover meat, herbs, and so on. They tried to make soups thick and, as they say, nutritious, serving both the first and the second.

Fedya, game!

Only aristocrats had meat in their daily diet. Most often they used lamb, lamb and pork. Beef was not held in high esteem: cows were kept for milk, and bulls for field work. They were slaughtered already at a respectable age, when the meat became very tough. The poor usually ate the cheaper chicken.

Contrary to the stereotypes about the Middle Ages, game was not eaten so often: the aristocrats hunted according to their mood, the peasants were busy working in the fields. In addition to wild boars and various birds, porcupines and hedgehogs, exotic for today, turned out to be on the table. The meat was often minced: the nobility, due to the active use of heavy food and wine, had bad teeth by the age of 30, some by this age did not have them at all. But fish was eaten everywhere and constantly. Moreover, in the Middle Ages, a fish was understood as any creature living in the water. For example, a beaver.

Let's add pepper!

Spices were brought to Europe from Asia and Africa, and not everyone could afford them. The story that in those days people actively peppered food, trying to hide its staleness, is a myth. Because of the high cost, spices were carefully saved: even the usual black pepper for us cost fabulous money, and the prices for saffron, nutmeg and cardamom were exorbitant. Salt was mined in Europe itself, so it was on the table for many. An oversalted dish spoke of the wealth of the owner.

What about vitamins?

Expensive spices were actively replaced with herbs. The most commonly used parsley, cumin, mustard, mint and sage. Salads were practically not eaten: firstly, vegetables, due to their low calorie content, were not considered food as such, and secondly, some believed that they cause fever and should not be eaten raw. The poor had no time for superstition: their diet often included raw or minimally processed carrots, cabbage, onions, and beets.

Fruits and berries, of course, were eaten with pleasure: in the north they ate apples, strawberries, plums, in the south – figs, lemons and oranges.

It's not beer that kills people

They did not drink plain water in the Middle Ages: its purity caused fair fears. Thirst was quenched with diluted beer and wine. The latter could be afforded by aristocrats, rich monasteries and merchants. Unlike water, wine did not spoil for a long time, it was even recommended by doctors to improve digestion. The wine of the first extraction, which was not available to everyone, was considered good. The second and third pressings had a lower strength and poor quality; poor people bought such wine. The poorest had to make do with vinegar.

Much more often they drank cheaper beer. Some varieties were made without hops, the drink turned out to be very thick, for the peasants it was a familiar snack during field work. Such malt beer was consumed even by children. Milk was considered not a drink, but food: it replaced meat for those who could not afford it. Mostly old people and children drank fresh, the rest made buttermilk or whey from it. Cheese was already popular then: it was served as an independent dish and used in soups and pies.

Will there be dessert?

The main medieval sweets — dried fruits and honey. When pure sugar appeared in Europe, it was first attributed to spices (fortunately, it cost accordingly) and everything was cooked with it, except for desserts, adding to meat and seafood. Gradually they began to cover fruits, added to sauces. Waffles, tarts (open pies) and other sweet pastries appeared in the late Middle Ages.

They brought a knife with them: it was considered indecent to ask the owner for it.

Where they cooked

The kitchen was a spacious room with a large table, a hearth and a pot suspended from a wooden beam. A stove with a chimney was considered a luxury. The poor, whose houses had only one room, used the kitchen as a bedroom and living room.

Open fire often led to a fire, and if the flame spread to other rooms, the house could burn to the ground. Therefore, in the 12th century, some rich people began to build a kitchen separately from the residential block, but this practice spread only in modern times.

How they were stored

In the absence of refrigerators, products were actively preserved: dried in the sun, dried, smoked, salted, treated with sugar, vinegar and honey. If something needed to be preserved for a short time, melted lard was used to protect against bacteria.

Do you respect me?

Eating in the Middle Ages was a collective process: loners, chewing something apart from others, were not encouraged at all. The dish was taken out on a common plate, from which all the guests served. Spoons were used to eat soup, but they were not required. But the Europeans did not appreciate the forks: until the 18th century, they were mainly eaten by Italians. Each guest brought a knife with him: it was considered indecent to ask the host for it.

Tablecloths appeared in the 12th century. But not for beauty, but for business – they wiped their mouths and hands. Around the same time, women received the right to sit at the common table. At first, the innovation concerned only the mistress of the house, but then the guests began to bring their wives and daughters with them. The overlord always sat at the head of the table, next to him were the family and those close to him. Small knights with families and servants occupied places far from the owner. 10 facts about how people lived in the Middle Ages. And what, so it was possible?

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