The Rich and the Poor
During the medieval periods, very distinct difference between the nobles and the peasants existed. The nobles and wealthy were able to obtain a wide variety of nutritious diets carefully prepared by cooks while the peasants must suffer through the few selection of meat and vegetables they can afford. Furthermore, even if a dish is common among both the nobles and the peasants, one could still sense the distinct differences when prepared by the same group. The dish, when prepared by noble, will have rich and carefully selected ingredients prepared in fine and elaborate fashions, served while fresh and tasteful. It could also contain certain variations from the original recipe, due to the addition of expensive imported spices from Asia. On the contrary, the same dish, prepared by peasants, will contain a reduced amount of meat that has been preserved for prolong periods of time, and served in the most basic fashions. The spices used will most likely be limited to salt and honey, with some wild herbs if lucky.
The rich enjoyed a relatively wide assortment of food in comparison to the poor. They were able to obtain large amounts of meat in their diet, with domesticated animals being the main source. Amongst the rich, beef, pork and chicken are very common, as they were farmed in large quantities by the peasants who worked for them. Aside from the meat, the choice of fish was also different among the rich and the poor. The rich ate mostly carp and pike, as they do not contain the strong natural stench that resides in many fishes. Certain rivers which can only be only be fished by the nobles provided the bulk of the fish supply, and any illegal fishing resulted in severe penalties. In addition to the restricted rivers, many castles also contain pools in which live fishes are kept to maintain a steady supply of fish when the catch at the river is poor.
Similar to the meat and fishes, grain products consumed by wealthy individuals
are much more refined than the ones of the poor. The rich consumed refined
wheat, which is wheat that has been carefully selected and grounded prior
to being used. With the refined wheat, softer and sweeter grain products
that is somewhat similar to ones consumed today can be made. In addition
to domestic agricultural products, the rich and noble also enjoyed many
imported goods which were not accessible to the peasants. The majority
of the foreign goods consisted of dried food and Asian spices, which were
imported through the Middle-East. Most of the spices were imported at extremely
high prices, and regarded very preciously at the time. They were usually
pepper, sugar, cinnamon, garlic powder and other spices which are common
today but were not produced in medieval Europe. Just as the spices, the
dried fruits are usually fruits that one can easily find today. Such dried
fruits were usually almonds and other exotic Asian fruits that were not
produced in Europe at the time.
Unlike the rich, who's diet was abundant in meats, the poor relied heavily on grain products to obtain the necessary nutrients. They did not have the refined wheat that was used by the rich, instead, they whatever grain that could be grown. They ate a lot of buckwheat, oats, turnips, nettles, reeds, barley, rye, briars and pea shells, even when they are still green. In addition, the medieval diet also included a large amount of corn, though they were not a large and juicy as the ones we enjoy today.
One fact that people should note is that neither the rich nor the poor
consumed much fresh vegetables and fruits. Although during the summer and
fall fresh fruits were an important part of the diet to the people of the
Middle Ages, not much was eaten during other times. During the medieval
times, no form of refrigeration technology existed, thus, much of the food
was preserved with salt or honey after the harvest season. As a result,
for most of the winter and early spring, that was all the Middle Ages people
enjoyed in terms of vegetables and fruits. Furthermore, the people of the
medieval times did not have a correct concept of health either, thinking
that eating large amounts of meat was the best way to obtain the necessary
nutrients. Consequently, the importance of vegetables and fruits was ignored,
further diminishing the amount that was consumed.