Food in the Middle Ages

In the early middle ages the entire household would eat together including the servants, but in the later middle ages this tradition was broken in wealthier families. The lord or master would retire to his private quarters to eat alone or with a few guests, whereby keeping the best food for himself; leaving more inferior food for everybody else. The women of the household would also eat alone.

Much of the food eaten by the wealthy was not available to the poor as it was too expensive; on the other hand the poor ate more vegetables because the wealthy believed that food which came from the ground was only suitable for the poor and this was mainly vegetables.

Honey was used to sweeten food and during the later middle ages many different spices were imported from other countries and added to the food. These included: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, saffron, mustard, turmeric, coriander, garlic and clove.


The wealthy often only ate 2 meals a day, the first being at around 12pm. It was considered weak to eat early in the day;

Bread (Manchet) made from wheat flour was eaten.

Meats available to wealthy families included:
Beef, Pork and Lamb
Venison, Rabbit and Hare

Fish was also well eaten including both fresh and salt water:
Trout and Pike
Herring and Salmon
Whiting, Plaice and Cod

Depending where the household lived, some shellfish was eaten including:
Crab and Oysters
Mussels and Cockles

Wealthy families also ate cheese and fruit, but very limited vegetables.


The poor were known to eat more, smaller meals during the day, as they needed to retain their strength for manual labour. Breakfast was therefore eaten by peasants, women, children and the elderly and sick. The men would carry bread and cheese with them to eat during the day while working in the fields.

The poor would not poach food unless very desperate because if caught it could result in death.

The poor lived mainly on stew or soup (Pottage), and they made a Rye or Barley bread to go with this.

The only meats available to them were Beef, Pork and Lamb and sometimes a little fish.

The vegetables used would be ones they had grown themselves. These included:
Onions, Parsnips and Beetroot
Lettuce, Cabbage, Fennel and Leeks
Peas, Beans and Lentils

Fruit was picked from bushes and trees.

Cheese was the staple diet of farmers along with bread.

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