Last week we talked about fruits and vegetables in the medieval diet, but this week we’re going to get to the “meat” of the subject. And the poultry. And the fish.


Medieval food relied heavily on pork and beef. Since there were large areas available for breeding pigs, pork was the most important component of medieval food. The greater part of a domestic banquet was pork, and no feast was complete without hams and sausages on all tables. People ate so much pork that the government started passing sanitary measures in Paris and other towns, and public officers had to examine the animals to make sure they were fit to eat.


Beef was almost as important as pork for the medieval person. There were even regulations to ensure the best quality of beef. For example, a butcher could not sell meat unless “it was previously seen alive by two or three persons, who will testify to it on oath.” That sounds like something we should reinstate today. Also, interestingly enough, when the church ordered an abstinence from meat, butchers were not allowed to sell it. However, the trade of a butcher was still a very profitable trade.


As far as poultry goes, geese were a must-have food in the upper class, and one item in the households of the king of France was always the poultry-house. However, the nobility appreciated fattened pheasant, as well as swans and even the occasional peacock. Swans were rather common in the main rivers of France, and peacocks played an important role in chivalric banquets due to the common supposition that peacocks are “food for the brave”.


Since no one ate meat on Fridays for religious reasons, everyone at fish on those days. For those who lived on the borders of lakes, ponds, or rivers, freshwater fish was the meal of choice since they could get it fresh. People particularly enjoyed pike, lampreys, trout, and carp; but the trade in salted sea-fish meant people ate salted herrings, mackerel, flat-fish, whiting, and codfish. In the 1300’s specifically, there was even a recipe involving the salted flesh of a whale. Salted fish was only eaten by the lower class though, as it was difficult to digest.


So there you have it. Now when you come to the Sarasota Medieval Fair, you’l know all about the kinds of food the cast members will be eating! If you’d like to learn more about medieval food, or you have any questions about it, leave a comment below or on Facebook at

Published in: on September 7, 2011 at 10:18 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. This series is wonderfully informative. Thank you for making the effort

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