Life in a Medieval Castle 2: Food

Most people lived in thatched houses made of mud or clay, in tiny hamlets or small villages.[i] Their diet consisted of dark bread supplemented with vegetables, with meat only on feast days when they could get it.[ii]

Bread was the main staple of the aristocracy’s diet also, but it was of better quality[iii] and supplemented with a far greater variety of foods. The main supplement was meat or fish, with fruit and vegetables[iv], cheese and butter. Eggs were used in great quantities, but only in recipes, not eaten alone.[v] The biggest difference was in the amount of herbs and spices used. Medieval meals were very heavily spiced, and this was another way to show the status and wealth of the household, as spices were very expensive. Along with rice, they were kept under lock and key and every portion documented.[vi]

Of course, the advantage of an estate was that a lot of these provisions came from your own land, either grown by your own labourers or paid as rent by your tenants. The land around Swansea and Oystermouth was fertile, and it had the advantage of being on the coast where fishing was plentiful. The river Tawe would have had fish too. For those familiar with Swansea, Orchard Street is where there was an orchard just outside the town gate, and Brynmill was indeed the site of a mill. The disadvantage of an estate was that the number of mouths to feed varied widely, sometimes from day to day. When the lord was present with his knights, the numbers would be very high, as each knight had his own servants. When other lords would visit, they would bring a whole retinue of people too.

 

[i] Labarge, Margaret Wade, Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century (1965), p.71
Briggs, Asa, A Social History of England, p.91,100
[ii] Labarge, Margaret Wade, Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century (1965),  p.71
[iii] Mortimer, Ian, The Time Traveller’s Guide To Medieval England,p.184
[iv] Mortimer, Ian, The Time Traveller’s Guide To Medieval England,p.184
[v] Labarge, Margaret Wade, Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century (1965), p.71
[vi] Labarge, Margaret Wade, Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century (1965), p.88
Briggs, Asa, A Social History of England, p.100

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s