Medieval cuisine includes foods, eating habits, and cooking methods of various European cultures during the Middle Ages, which lasted from the fifth to the fifteenth century. During this period, diets and cooking changed less than they did in early modern period that followed, when those changes helped lay the foundations for modern European cuisine. Cereals remained the most important staple during the early Middle Ages as rice was introduced late, and the potato was only introduced in 1536, with a much later date for widespread consumption. Barley, oat and rye were among the poor. Wheat was for the governing classes. Those were consumed as bread, porridge, gruel and pasta by all of society’s members. Fava beans and vegetables were important supplements to the cereal-based diet of the lower orders. (Phaseolus beans, today the “common bean”, were of New World origin and were introduced after the Columbian Exchange in the 16th century.)

Meat was more expensive and therefore more prestigious. Game, a form of meat acquired from hunting, was common only on the nobility’s tables. The most prevalent butcher’s meats were pork, chicken and other domestic fowl; beef, which required greater investment in land, was less common. Cod and herring were mainstays among the northern populations; dried, smoked or salted they made their way far inland, but a wide variety of other saltwater and freshwater fish was also eaten.

Slow transportation and food preservation techniques (based on drying, salting, smoking and pickling) made long-distance trade of many foods very expensive. Because of this, the nobility food was more prone to foreign influence than the cuisine of the poor; it was dependent on exotic spices and expensive imports. As each level of society imitated the one above it, innovations from international trade and foreign wars from the 12th century onwards gradually disseminated through the upper middle class of medieval cities. Aside from economic unavailability of luxuries such as spices, decrees outlawed consumption of certain foods among certain social classes and sumptuary laws limited conspicuous consumption among the nouveaux riches. Social norms also dictated that the food of the working class be less refined, since it was believed there was a natural resemblance between one’s labour and one’s food; manual labour required coarser, cheaper food. –Wikipedia

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write about the cuisine in your world and how it differs between different social and cultural groups. 

Journaling Prompt: Write about your family of origin’s cuisine.

Art Prompt: Medieval cuisine

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about medieval culture.

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