Medieval Nutrition

The Middle Ages is a term that describes the eating habits, basic food products and preparation in the Middle Ages - the period of the field that typically fall of the Roman Empire (5th century) to the beginning of the Renaissance (16th century).

This is, indeed, a prolonged period, but because of the similar characteristics of this period, and especially in the form of rule developed in Europe to the period of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance, you can find many similarities despite differences between the various kitchens that have developed throughout Europe.

Despite the many various Kitchens in medieval Europe, to characterize the general cereals and breads in particular. Vegetables grown close to diversify the meal was almost always consisted of cereal and vegetables. The meat was considered a luxury dish in most of the Middle Ages, as well as various sweeteners (honey or sugar) and spices, which were usually for the rich only.

Pork was the main meat eaten in Europe (a few eggs laying hens, the cows gave milk, oxen were used as beasts of burden and labor, and thus eaten less). Northern Europe and the Mediterranean area had a fish food based diet. (mainly in northern Europe cod and herring, and sardines south).

Another characteristic of this long period (until the 11th century) is a minority trade, which led to stagnation in the development of the local kitchens that are based on local products only. Trade routes across Europe where only rivers, and there was almost no trade ways.

The use of minority trade brought many methods of food preservation - both because of the time it takes to preserve the food trade long ways, and because of the long periods in which there was no fresh food available to residents. Only the very rich could import exotic spices such as black pepper diversity of food, so generally only the high nobility houses kitchens, church leaders and the royal houses of Europe were subjected to European influences.

Just as modern cuisine influences permeate down the social ladder, was the Middle Ages, but slower than that of today. Nobility enjoyed foods "noble", also ate more simple foods like bread and cereal products. The differences between domestic kitchens were mainly due to the basic nature of the food products made locally by the common people. Nobility used to replace the cooks and import exotic food.

Occupation of the coastal cities in the holy land led to the import of food products from Europe (including oranges, oils, almonds, watermelon, lemon, peanuts, rice and sugarcane) and exports to the East. In the 12th and 13th century the holy land was cut off the commercial trade with Asia by arab conquests, influencing the increase of imported food products in Europe. These changes effectively ending the culinary time machine "medieval kitchen" and the beginning of the "Modern Kitchen".

Food products were relaid on the importance of bread in the Middle Age kitchen. Actually cereal and bread were the main food of the people in Europe since the dawn of history. In the Middle Ages, where trading was limited, and local food products were the only foods that were within the reach of common people. Grain foods were scarce and vegetables that grew in the yard, were the only food within the reach of most residents.

Most Europeans used to eat twice a day porridge, cereal, oats or barley which used to dip the bread. This porridge called "FRUMENTY" - commoners ate it as it is, and the wealthy ate it, plus wine, meat and spices. The rice was imported to Europe during the Middle Ages and also grew in the north of Italy, but unlike the Asian kitchens, rice was only the rich and considered a luxury food.

Common people ate bread was bread - "black bread" - which included all the components of the grain, and it was simple to prepare.

The importance of bread in the kitchen had also medieval social effects. Sometimes bread prices were fixed by law, Legislation, such as the "Law of bread and ale" in England in 1266, has set the price of bread in relation to the size of the loaf and weight.

The nature of the fire ovens, heated unstable, required a small loaves of bread baking, to make sure that the bread is completely baked (and remain non-baked dough parts at the center of the loaf).

Fruit and vegetables

In the Middle Ages the vegetables actually divided into two types: "Weeds" and Roots "- depending on the part that is eaten. Nobles Courtyards and gardens grew vegetables such as cabbage, kohlrabi, beets, onions, peas, beans, garlic, carrots and turnips. To diversify its grain foods, vegetables were commonly eaten in their growing seasons. Turnip was considered one of the most important vegetable because of its long shelf life. "Weeds" were more leeks, coriander, parsley, lettuce and poppy. Spinach, known in Roman times as a plant food. Truffles, known in Roman times, are not mentioned in early medieval texts. Only in the 14th century truffles were used again.

Fruit eaten fresh, dried or canned, accounted for an additional nutrition. Fruits were collected in the forests around the towns and villages along with the honey collected from hives. Sweet dessert fruit actually out of reach to the common people. South of Europe grew lemons, oranges, pomegranates, grapes and figs, in the north of Europe spread mainly apples, berries and pears. Other fruits eaten in Europe were plum, chestnut, peach, quince, almond, strawberry, cherry and walnut.

Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and corn, which are key components of the European kitchens of these days, as do tea, coffee, cocoa and tobacco, which are an essential component in the recreational activities of the European, Starting from the 18th century, were not known at all in medieval Europe. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cocoa and tobacco were there just after the 16th century, after the discovery of the Americas, as well as tea and coffee imports to Europe from Asia began in the 16th century.

Spices and herbs

Spices were considered the most prestigious product can be purchased in the Middle Ages, after the remains of Christian saints. Europe and its wealthy nobles demonstrated their wealth and power by the excessive use of spices. Among the spices imported from Europe were black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, nutmeg and cloves. These spices imported from Asia and Africa were sold to the highest price.

The cost of purchasing the spices was great, and the value of spices purchased annually in Europe in the late Middle Ages was the same as the value of the grain to feed 1.5 million people for a whole year (ie, after the year 1340, before the black plague lived in England about 5 million people, the cost of feeding the annual all residents England was one-third the cost of buying spices in Europe in the same year - of course, spices purchased by the upper classes only).Simplest and the cheapest spice was black pepper. Saffron was an expensive spice, due to its taste and because of its rarity.

The common people seasoned their foods with local herbs spices grown in gardens and courtyards of the monasteries. These herbs include sage, mustard and parsley, which grows throughout Europe and are used in the kitchens of common people and the nobility. There were other herbs mint, dill. Local herbs were available to supply the entire population of Europe, but the common people used herbs for seasoning food, the kitchens of the aristocracy  used more expensive spices  used to decorate foods rather than as a seasoning.

Kitchens nobility used to show visitors the wealth of hosts by using spices substantial and extensive cost was great. No one really believes that the widespread use of spices was intended to cover the taste of spoiled meat, because the cost of spices was far greater than the cost of meat.

Food preservation

Home food preservation methods of today are the same methods that were discovered in ancient times, and which is used throughout the Middle Ages. Only the invention of tin and pasteurization of the 19th century changed the traditional home preservation methods.

The most basic method of food preservation is heating to remove moisture from it . This method was used since ancient times for preservation cereals or meat, and has been effective due to the reduction of moisture, nourishes the microorganisms in food, leading to decay. The Mediterranean region, where the climate is hot, drying food can be used in the summer by leaving food in the sun. In northern Europe, the drying is done by hanging food in the strong wind, or by drying over the fire in the living rooms.

Other conservation methods discovered in ancient times were smoking food, salination and acidosis. The advantage of these methods in speed relative to dry food and change the nature and flavor of the food.

In the Middle Ages animals used to be slaughter in the fall, before Christmas to preserve them for the winter. Salted butter (5% - 10% salt) in order not to spoil the meet in absence of refrigeration. Vegetables, eggs and fish were salted and stored in jars (similar to today's pickles).

Another method of food preservation is by sealing material to keep it fresh, cooked with sugar, honey or fat.