Official post 4: Food of medieval Britain

During the medieval Britain period, there was sometimes a shortage of food. People would actually starve to death which is something people today sometimes forget. In order to stay alive, people would turn to crime and steal food and other items to feed their families and themselves. The most popular item of food during this time was bread. There were many bad years for wheat (as mentioned in our textbook: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer). These years include 1315-17, 1321-23, 1331-32, 1350-52, 1363-64, 1367-68, 1369-71, and 1390-91. If there was not a good season for food, there would not be enough to feed a poor man and his family. Men women and children would eat anything they could get their hands on including herbs, grass, acorns, and bark. Vegetables were only seasonal and there were no tomatoes or potatoes because they came from other countries that had not yet been found. During this time, there was a higher chance that people who were in the top class of the economy would survive. A lot of peasants did not own land and could not grow food to feed their families. Also during this time, lords would not let peasants bake their own bread in their homes. Instead, the families had to pay to use the lord’s oven. Besides bread, people would also eat pottage. Pottage was a kind of soup made from oats which could have been mixed with vegetables such as parsnips. The most popular kind of pottage was the leek pottage. The ingredients of the leek pottage depended on what the peasant had grown around the side of his/her home. For some people, making leek pottage was impossible. Meat during this time was the food of the rich and was in high demand. Not only did the rich want meat but so did peasants who wanted to look like they lived the rich life. Meat was held like a status symbol, those who were at the top of their class had the most but people at the bottom were not so lucky. People at the bottom of their class had to hunt for their meat. Hunting during this time was not easily allowed and most of the time was only available to the lord of the manor. Another reason peasants did not eat meat often was because they used the live animals for other things. Cows, sheep, and goats provided milk for the families and they could also use the milk to make cheese. Chickens, geese, and ducks were kept alive for the use of their eggs. For those who lived on the coast, fishing was a big deal. For those who lived inland, they were unable to fish as often, or if at all. Meals in monasteries during this time were better than those of peasants but they still followed the class system. The abbot got the best food, and also got to share the same greatness as a lord in his house when the abbot had guests. Think about the foods we have around today and compare that to what they used to have. It is amazing to see how far our world has come since then.


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