Date: November 27, 2020
“Medieval peasants didn’t exactly have it easy. Aside from the endless wars, the abject poverty, and the occasional plague, they had to get by on a relatively meagre diet. But just what did they actually rustle up for dinner? Here’s what medieval peasants really ate in a day.
Here’s a question: how does anyone actually know what peasants ate in the medieval era? After all, it’s not like peasants were keeping detailed records of their daily lives. In fact, it’s been estimated that, even in the later years of the Middle Ages, only around 10 percent of men and one percent of women were literate. And those that were literate weren’t really writing about their breakfast, lunch, or dinner — so researchers have had to get creative.
For example, in 2019, a study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science took samples of medieval pottery from West Cotton, Northamptonshire and analyzed the residue left inside. The molecular analysis allowed them to put together a picture of what was cooked inside.
What did they find? Well, the staples were meat — mostly sheep and cattle — as well as cabbage stews, cooked in the pots over an open hearth. There were also a lot of dairy products, which the study notes were affectionately referred to as “white meats of the poor.”
A few years ago, English Heritage followed a reenactor as she made a traditional medieval stew, and it’ll actually look pretty familiar to 21st-century cooks. Meat was first browned over an open fire, then transferred to a large dish. Carrots, onions, and any other available veg were added, as well as a little cider. It was sometimes seasoned with whatever herbs could be foraged, then barley was added, too — a staple grain in peasant diets. That was then left to cook over an open fire or a hearth. Doesn’t sound so awful, does it?
Watch the video for more about What Medieval Peasants Really Ate In A Day!”
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