Where To Start: Medieval Cooking

Food in Medieval Times

Just as it is today, food and how it is consumed was very important in medieval times. There were many highly specific rituals and customs related to how food was prepared, when it was served and how it was eaten. One particularly strange belief that influenced medieval European cooking was the ideology of the four humours. Medieval Europeans believed that bodily health and disease were controlled by these humours, which were associated with four qualities of food: hot, dry, cold and wet. Foods needed to be balanced between these attributes in order to provide balance to the humours. Hence some medieval recipes have certain herbs and spices not to enhance taste, but to enhance health.

The large majority of medieval European food probably wasn’t super spicy. At the time many spices were incredibly expensive, being imported from the East. Luckily this is no longer the case, with almost all of us having enough spices in our cupboards to make a king swoon in envy!

A few places to find medieval recipes:

A couple of ideas for potluck events:

A potluck event is one wherein you are supposed to bring some food to share. Now obviously you can also go as a freeloader, but it won’t work if everyone does this, so here are some ideas.

  • A whole cooked chicken – this is definitely period… a warning however: you should think about how it will be served, and also beware the “everyone brought a Woolworths chicken” potluck!
  • Bread – the round/oval loaves look more period than rectangular ones. Don’t forget to bring a knife to serve it with.
  • Cheese – delicious stuff.
  • Fruit – apples, pears, quinces, peaches, plums, strawberries, raspberries, dates, cherries, grapes, apricot and elderberry are all examples of fruits that were obtainable in medieval Europe.
  • Fruit pie – apples, pears, berries are all good fruits to put in a pie. Cinnamon, mace and cloves are all good spices. Don’t forget something to serve it with.
  • Pretzels – special shoutout to pretzels for being period! They aren’t the easiest to make but taste amazingggg…