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Food in the City

For the poor, a dark bread of rye or barley, maybe with cheese and a bowl of curds were typical meals. Servants in households were usually better fed, with beef or fowl for meats, better breads, pudding, salt herring, cheese, dried cod and ale (which was probably made on the premises).

The middle class merchant and minor nobility would have had a variety of courses. Each course would have had several different dishes brought out at the same time and then the people would have chosen what to eat. The courses would not have been divided up into categories like we do today.

Here is an example from a wealthy banquet:


Miniature pastries filled either with cod liver or beef marrow
A cameline meat "brewet" (pieces of meat in a thin cinnamon sauce)
Beef marrow fritters
Eels in a thick spicy puree
Loach in a cold green sauce flavored with spices and sage
Large cuts of roast or boiled meat
Saltwater fish


"The best roast that may be had"
Freshwater fish
Broth with bacon
A meat tile (pieces of chicken or veal, simmered, sautéed, served in a spiced sauce)
Capon pasties and crisps
Bream and eel pasties


Lampreys with hot sauce

After the meal would come the sweets and confections, then maybe some spiced wine or even whole spices, which were thought to aid in digestion.

The wealthiest nobles would not necessarily have had different foods from the middle class, but more of it overall. And, there were more curious things on the wealthy table, such as figures molded from jelly or pastry, such as lions or crowns or birds.

Original text on this page is© (copyright) 1995-2007 Lara E. Eakins

See Also

Historical resources - An article on various aspects of daily life in the past, including period cuisine and cooking.