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Kinds of Food:


Bread | Meat | Fish | Spices

Bread
Bread was the most common food in Medieval times, along with grain that was used to make bread.  People spent more on grain and bread than anything else.  An unmarried working in the 1300's spent at least 1/3 of his wages on bread or wheat. Large noble households used about 300 pounds of grain daily!  Grain was so important that town and city governments guarded its transportation routes against thieves and pirates.

Meat
Meat was mostly considered as luxury food because it was so expensive at the time, except for those who lived in regions where livestock was raised. As the standards of living rose, meat became a more common food group. The most common and cheapest meat was mutton from sheep. But pork, beef and veal (from calves) were also popular.  Many people bought sheep, pigs or other animals live and then slaughtered them and salted the meat themselves. Others bought their meat fresh from butchers. Cooks and innkeepers sold the meat they prepared in the form of roasts, meat pies or stews. The high price of meat and the high demand for it made butchers quite wealthy.   Meat merchants were make the best living than any other food traders, and were one of the first ones to form a guild. The slaughter of animals and disposal of their bones, organs, blood and waste caused many disagreements between the public and the butchers.  The stench and mess created by the slaughter of animals on yards, slaughterhouses, and in the marketplace was unbearable.  Many butchers cut up the remains into small bits and dumped it into rivers and streams.  Some butchers took the remains to pits dug for waste disposals outside of own. Fish
Fish was a common food in the middle ages because church prohibited eating meat on Fridays and Saturdays during Lent, and on religious festivals throughout the year.  These meat prohibited days which added up to more than one third of a year, encouraged people to catch, sell and eat fish as a supplement. Fish were sold salted, dried pickled or fresh, and shellfish were sold fresh in bushels.  Freshwater fish were considerably more expensive than preserved fish which lasted a lot longer. Freshwater fish were so valuable that feudal lords guarded their rights to rivers, streams and ponds.  Because fresh fish spoiled so quickly, it was allowed to be sold in the streets.  It could not be sold after the second day it was caught unless it was properly salted.  The sale of fish in the marketplace was subject to regulations similar to those imposed on meat.  Sales took place in special sections of the market and the quality of the fish sold was carefully observed.  Fish sellers were fined if they poured water onto the fish to keep them fresh looking.

Spice
Spices were used quite commonly.  Cinnamon, cloves, mace, saffron, and especially pepper were savored.  Ginger, anise, nutmeg are also mentioned along with many common (and not so common) herbs such as parsley, basil, galingale, rosemary (mentioned in Shakespears' "Hamlet") and thyme. Vegetables were also a common part of the menu, though the medieval feast did not follow our appetizer-entree-dessert pattern.