Much like today, food in the medieval ages was cherished. Food served as a statement for the people in middle ages, the wealthy ate well while the poor hardly ate at all. More than just statement of social class food in the medieval ages introduced beauty. A beautiful woman was a big woman, the bigger the better. During the medieval ages which lasted from the 5th century to the 15th the dining experienced evolved. Food shaped the culture as well as the quality of life in medieval and renaissance England.
Often when people think of the dining experience in the Middle Ages they conjure up thoughts of giant turkey legs along with ale being devoured by hungry folks in the king’s castle with a court jester serving as the night’s entertainment. To understand what people really ate we must first establish the cause of the middle ages. The middle ages are generally believed to have started with the fall of the Roman Empire in the west in the fifth century. At the time of the fall of the Roman Empire and up to Henry VIII’s break with Rome food habits were closely related with religious practices (Black 8).
Clerics made a large portion of the population for they included parish priests. Many people who made up the population were religious.
At almost every meal especially feats it was commonplace to drink far too much. Rich or poor, rainy or sunny, cold or warm the people throughout all of England would drink massive amounts alcohol. Many Europeans to this day have a higher alcohol tolerance based on their pre disposure to alcohol which can be traced back to the medieval ages. People commonly drank together at inns or taverns, however most people had alcohol in their houses. The town’s people, religious or not religious, were what today would be called alcoholics. Alcoholism is a very real disease which affects the brain and other organs quite severely. Alcohol is one of the only drugs that affect the entire body. The excessive amount of drinking done by the people in the middle ages accounts for the high death rate due to alcohol related diseases such as liver disease.
Problem: A person should be able to drink legally at the age of eighteen. The law that states that it is legal for a person to drink at the age of twenty-one should be changed so that an eighteen-year-old would be allowed to drink alcohol legally. At 18, you are now an adult and you are expected to act that way. Legally you can vote, get married, buy a lottery ticket, serve in the military and be ...
Food choices of the people in the medieval ages impacted the environment as well. Many animals became extinct due to man’s hunting.
Bustards (large, swift running birds) and
Beavers became extinct in early modern
England because of men’s greed for ‘grete
fowles’ and the specious reasoning the
beavers used their tails for swimming
so they counted as fish! (Black 11).
Other than just harming animal species, people in medieval England would clear cut vast amounts of land in order to farm. The most common things eaten were things from the river. The most common meal over these thousand years was salted herring. Because dirty rivers were the primary source of food for a thousand of years people constantly were dying of diseases.
Food played a role in the social status of the culture of the medieval ages. Knights, squires, and court henchmen were usually fed by the court commissariat (Black 13).
The common family would sit down and pray then have a family meal. Despite the belief that the people in the Middle Ages were extremely unorganized and unholy they prayed before every meal as well as washed their hands. All people drank, even children. Babies were often given watered down liquor in order to put them too sleep. The king had massive feasts in which many people came. Often the king had more than one chef. Aesthetically speaking, in medieval ages a skinny woman would be considered highly unattractive. The larger a person was meant the more food they had eaten. If a person can eat a lot then they must have a considerable amount of wealth. Larger women were sought after opposed to thinner ones. Food defined the culture of the Middle Ages.
Yarmouth was a town consisting of two major sections, Great and Little Yarmouth. The founder of Yarmouth is believed to be a man named Cedric, who was a Saxon leader, but people still doubt this to this very day. One of the main reasons for the foundation of Yarmouth is the Herring, a fish that was very healthy to eat, and especially important to the lower classes because it was cheap and readily ...
Many years were years of hunger thanks to some cases of famine. Everyone suffered in the winters, though the kings and other royalty ate the best. Dried fish was the most common form of food in the winters of the middle ages. At other times in Europe the Black Death came killing as many as one of every three people. Many years of famine would follow the plague which caused many of the Europeans to starve if they did not die from the plague (Dawson 7).
Some animals were more important to the family than others,
A cow became the peasant’s most important
possession, giving butter, cream, milk, cheese,
curds, and whey (Dawson 13).
Cheese was a common culinary element to daily life. Hard cheese was sent to out to peasants working in the nobles’ fields. Rich folk often ate macaroni and cheese. Town folk often relied on the importation of food brought in from the surrounding countryside by farmers and traders. Thanks to importation often done by ships who suffered from the wrath of pirates, people were able to experience spics and foreign drinks in Renaissance England. Almost all food was cooked and prepared outside. In some rare cases a person had a fireplace in the house. However, this practice was commonplace for kings and royalty. Because food was prepared outside it was often subject to flies and other animals. Flies in food spread diseases such as malaria causing widespread death in Medieval England.
European culture was very much shaped by food. Among other hardships in the Middle Ages, food cleanliness caused much death. Europe had problems with cleanliness, in thirteen fifty seven (commonly called the Year of the Great Stink) “the pollution emergency of
the Thames which forced construction of underground sewage disposal”( Cosman 99).
Socially speaking food was extremely important especially the presence of alcohol. Alcohol shaped the behavior as well as the lifestyles of people in Medieval England. Over the course of a thousand years food evolved with the changing of religion as well as the changing of people. Food touched every aspect of life in the Middle Ages shaping the culture as well as the quality of life in Renaissance England.
By: VJ @CF One of the most important facets of any revolution is violence. This is often a response to the heightened repression or other intolerable demands from the government against its people. The American Revolution is no exception. Following the Seven Years War, England need to recover some of their finances which were lost due to the war. Parliament achieved this by the taxation of the ...
“Alcoholism.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 13 Oct. 2011. .
Black, Maggie. The Medieval Cookbook. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1992. Print.
Cosman, Madeleine Pelner. Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony. New York: G. Braziller, 1976. Print.
Dawson, Imogen. Food & Feasts in the Middle Ages. New York: New Discovery, 1994. Print.