What Kind of Food Was Common Among the People in the Middle ages?

Back in the Middle Ages, there were very various types of food. Who you were, where you lived, and whether the harvest was good or bad, affected your diet.

But, no matter what meal they ate, there was one essential ingredient/part  of a daily diet in the Middle Ages. And that was bread. Peasants mostly had bread from rye or maslin (a combination of rye and wheat flour), which produced a darker and heavier variety of bread. Barley bread was more popular in cold and wet areas. The wealthy could afford white, wheat bread, which required more fertile soil and additional manure. In a famine, people would add beans and peas into their bread to save grain. Types of bread in the Middle Ages:

  • pandemain – deemed the best as the flour was sifted 2 or 3 times
  • wastel – a good quality bread
  • cocket – a cheaper, white bread
  • cheat – wholewheat with the bran removed
  • tourte – containing husk as well as flour (known as brown bread)
  • horse bread – beans, peas and any general grain was used
  • clapbread – barley bread or oatcakes

In medieval England, pottage (a thick soup from boiled vegetables and meat) was popular. The kind of pottage cooked usually depended from the crop grown and the season. Usually, it was made from oats, added with vegetables, meat, and herbs. The peasantry ate pottage which was runny and thin, added with vegetables such as cabbage, turnips, carrots, and onions. Leek pottage was especially popular. The rich ate thicker kinds of pottage called frumenty. Frumenty was made from boiled, cracked wheat, and had milk, eggs, sugar, almonds, etc. It was served with meat.

Meat mostly came from domesticated animals such as pigs and sheep. Beef was quite uncommon, due to cattle being prized more for labor. Chicken was the most popular poultry then, although geese and ducks were also eaten. Wild game was for the nobility, as peasants were forbidden to hunt. Deer, boar, and rabbits served as fresh meat for the rich. Fresh meat was usually roasted, while older meat was usually boiled.

Fish was mostly eaten by coastal or riverside populations, as they were expensive to people living inland. Medieval people ate many kinds of fish, and they considered everything from the water (including shellfish, whales, seabirds, beavers) as fish. Fish was salted or pickled when caught to preserve them, so sauces were usually used to neutralize the salty taste. Fish was generally boiled to remove any impurities before serving.