On the medieval kitchen

On the medieval kitchen

ABOUTmedieval kitchenmuch has been written and said more. This question is very popular among researchers. But it is necessary to once again clarify one thing, namely: the dishes served on the tables of gentlemen - aristocrats, landowners, people denounced by authority, both spiritual and secular - differed significantly from what ordinary people who worked on their lands and dependent on them, including financially ...

However, when in the XIII century, the boundaries between the estates began to erase, the powerful people preoccupied themselves with how to keep the workers, and decided to play on the love of the "hearth", allowing the peasants to feast on food from their table.



In the Middle Ages, white bread, which is made from wheat flour of the highest grinding, was intended exclusively for the lordly and princely tables. The peasants ate black, especially rye, bread.

In this regard, it is necessary to mention the "fire of St. Anthony" - a disease that, in a "strange" way, affected mainly the poor people and peasants."The fire of St. Anthony" is an ergot poisoning, a parasitic fungus that forms in rye spikelets.


In the Middle Ages, this often fatal disease grew to the size of an epidemic, especially in lean, hungry, etc. the years when everything that more or less fell under the definition of cereal was collected from the fields, often ahead of schedule, that is, just at the very time when ergot is most poisonous. Ergot poisoning affected the nervous system and in most cases was fatal.

It was only in the early Baroque era that one Dutch doctor discovered the relationship between ergot and "St. Anthony's fire." Chlorine was used as a means of spreading the disease, although despite it, or even because of it, the epidemic raged even more.

But the use of chlorine was not ubiquitous and was rather determined by the variety of bread: some clever bakers bleached their rye and oat bread with chlorine, and then sold it profitably, giving it white (chopped bone was used for the same purposes).


And since, in addition to these very unhealthy bleaching agents, bread was often baked as raisins as bread.dried flies, the extremely cruel punishments that were punished by bakers cheaters, appear in a new light.
Those who wanted to make easy money on bread often had to overstep the law. And almost everywhere it was punished with considerable fines.

In Switzerland, swindlers bakers were hung in cages over a dung pit. Accordingly, those who wanted to get out of it, had to jump straight into the fetid mess.

In order to prevent bullying, to prevent the spread of ill fame about their profession, as well as to control themselves, bakers united in the first industrial association - the guild. Thanks to her, that is due to the fact that representatives of this profession took care of their membership in the guild, real masters of baking appeared.


There are many legends about cuisine and recipes. The most beautiful of them was described by Marco Polo, who in 1295 brought back from his trip to Asia with her a recipe for cooking dumplings and "strands" of dough.


Marco Polo

It is assumed that this story was heard by a Venetian chef, who began tirelessly mixing water, flour, eggs, sunflower oil and salt, and did this until he achieved the best consistency of noodle dough.It is not known whether this is true or whether the noodles came to Europe from Arab countries thanks to the crusaders and merchants, but the fact that European cuisine soon became unthinkable without it is a fact.

However, in the XV century there were still prohibitions on cooking pasta, as in the case of a particularly unsuccessful harvest, flour was necessary for baking bread. But since the Renaissance, the triumphal procession of pasta in Europe could no longer be stopped.

Porridge and thick soup.

Until the era of the Roman Empire, porridge was present in the diet of all sectors of society, and only then turned into food for the poor. However, they were very popular with them, they ate it three or even four times a day, and in some houses they ate exclusively one of them. This state of affairs persisted until the 18th century, when potato was replaced by porridge.

It should be noted that the porridge of the time is significantly different from our current ideas about this product: medieval porridge can not be called "porridge", in the sense that today we attach to this word, it was hard, hard so that it could be cut. Another feature of that porridge was that it was irrelevant what it consists of.


One Irish law of the eighth century clearly spelled out which segments of the population, which porridge were supposed to eat: "For the lower class, oatmeal cooked with buttermilk and old butter for it are quite enough; and put fresh butter in it, and the royal offspring should serve sugary sweetened with honey made from wheat flour and fresh milk. "

Along with porridge from ancient times, mankind is known for "dinner from one dish" - thick soup, replacing the first and second. It is in the cuisines of various cultures (Arabs and Chinese use a double pot for cooking it - meat and various vegetables are cooked in the lower compartment, and on the pair rising from it "comes" rice) and also like porridge it was food for the poor, for His preparations did not use expensive ingredients.

There is also a practical explanation for this particular dish: in the medieval kitchen (both in princely and peasant) food was cooked in a cauldron suspended on rotating mechanisms above an open fire (later in the fireplace). And what could be simpler than to throw all the ingredients you can get into such a pot and make a rich broth from them. At the same time, the taste of the soup is very easy to change, just by changing the ingredients.

Although the archaeological finds show that the peasants were much more likely to eat barley porridge and vegetables, they also ate meat.

Meat, lard, butter

Having read books about the life of aristocrats, impressed with the colorful descriptions of peers, the modern man firmly believed that the representatives of this class fed exclusively on game. In fact, this dish was only 5% in their diet.


Pheasants, swans, wild ducks, wood grouses, deer ... It sounds magical. But in fact, chickens, geese, sheep and goats were usually served at the table. A special place in the medieval kitchen took roast.

Speaking about or reading about meat cooked on a skewer or grill, we forget about the more than insignificant development of the dental business at that time. And how to chew hard meat with a toothless jaw?

Savvy came to the rescue: the meat was kneaded in a mortar to a mushy state, thickened with the addition of eggs and flour, and the resulting mass was fried on a spit in the shape of an ox or a sheep.

They also sometimes came with fish, a feature of this variation of the dish was that the “gruel” was pushed into the skin, skillfully strapped from the fish, and then cooked or fried.


The corresponding state of dentistry also influenced the fact that vegetables were usually served in the form of mashed potatoes (chopped vegetables were mixed with flour and egg). The first who began to serve vegetables to the table cut into pieces was a Martino meter.

Strange now it seems to us that in the Middle Ages, fried meat was also often cooked in broth, and cooked chicken, rolled in flour, was added to the soup. With such a double treatment, the meat lost not only its crisp, but also its taste.

As for the fat content of food and ways to make it so, the aristocrats used sunflower oil for this purpose, and later butter, and the peasants were content with pork lard.


Drying, smoking and salting as methods of canning food in the Middle Ages were already known.

1. Dried fruits - pears, apples, cherries - and vegetables. Dried or dried in the oven, they persisted for a long time and were often used in cooking: they were especially loved to be added to wine. Fruits are also used to make compote (fruit, ginger). However, the resulting liquid was not consumed immediately, but thickened and then cut: it turned out something like candy - great-candy.

2Smoked meat, fish and sausage - this was due primarily to the seasonality of the slaughter of livestock, which took place in October-November, since, firstly, in early November it was necessary to pay in-kind tax, and secondly, it allowed not to spend in winter for animal feed.

3. Sea fish, which was imported for consumption during fasting, was preferred to be salted. Many varieties of vegetables were also poured, such as beans and peas. As for the cabbage, it was leavened, that is, placed in a pickle.


An essential attribute of medieval cuisine was seasoning.
Moreover, it makes no sense to distinguish between seasonings for the poor and seasoning for the rich, for only the rich could afford to have spices.


It was easier and cheaper to buy pepper. The import of pepper made richer many, but also many, namely those who cheated and mixed dried berries into pepper, brought to the gallows. Along with pepper, the favorite seasonings in the Middle Ages were cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg.

Saffron should be mentioned separately: it was worth even several times more expensive than very expensive nutmeg (in the 20s of the 15th century, when nutmeg was sold for 48 kreutzers, saffron cost about one hundred and eighty, which corresponded to the price of a horse).

In most cookbooks of that period, the proportions of spices are not indicated, but, based on books from a later period, it can be concluded that these proportions did not match our current tastes, and the dishes seasoned, as it was done in the Middle Ages, might seem very sharp and even burn the palate.


Spices were not only used to demonstrate wealth, they also blocked the smell of meat and other products. Meat and fish stocks in the Middle Ages were often salted so that they would not deteriorate as long as possible and would not become the cause of the disease. And, therefore, the spices were designed to drown not only smells but also taste - the taste of salt. Or sour.

Spices, honey and pink water sweetened the sour wine so that it could be served on the table for the masters. Some contemporary authors, referring to the length of the journey from Asia to Europe, believe that during transportation the spices lost their taste and smell and essential oils were added to them to return them.


Herbs were valued for their healing power, treatment without herbs was unthinkable. But in cooking they held a special place.Southern herbs, namely: marjoram, basil and thyme - familiar to modern man, did not exist in the Middle Ages in the northern countries. But such herbs were used, which we will not remember today.

We, as before, know and appreciate the magical properties of parsley (the favorite greens in the Middle Ages), mint, dill, caraway, sage, lovage, chabra, fennel; nettle and calendula are still fighting for a place in the sun and in a saucepan. But who remembers today, for example, about flowers of lily or beet tops?

Almond Milk and Marzipan

In every medieval cuisine of the powerful in addition to spices, almonds were always present. Especially liked to make almond milk from it (crushed almonds, wine, water), which was then used as a basis for preparing various dishes and sauces, and for the time of fasting they were replaced with real milk.

Marzipan, also made from almonds (grated almonds with sugar syrup), was a luxury in the Middle Ages. In fact, this dish is considered a Greco-Roman invention.


Researchers conclude that the small almond cakes that the Romans sacrificed to their gods were the precursors of sweet almond dough (pane Martius (spring bread)- Marzipan).

Honey and sugar

The food in the Middle Ages was sweetened exclusively with honey. Although cane sugar was already known in southern Italy in the eighth century, the rest of Europe learned the secret of obtaining it only during the Crusades. But even then sugar remained a luxury: at the beginning of the 15th century, six kilograms of sugar cost the same as a horse.

Only in 1747, Andreas Sigismund Markgraf discovered the secret of sugar production from sugar beets, but even this did not particularly affect the state of things. Industrial and, accordingly, mass production of sugar began only in the XIX century, and only then did sugar become a product “for everyone”.

These facts allow us to take a look at medieval feasts with new eyes: only those who had excessive wealth could afford to arrange them, because most of the dishes consisted of sugar, and many of the dishes were meant only to be admired and admired, but not used for food.


We are amazed to read about carcasses of hazel dormice, storks, eagles, bears and beaver tails that were served at the table at that time. We are thinking about how hard the meat of storks and beavers should be, how rare such animals are as the push-up sleep and the hazel sleepy.

At the same time, we forget that numerous changes in dishes were intended, first of all, not to satisfy hunger, but to demonstrate wealth. Who could be left indifferent by the appearance of such a dish as a peacock "spewing" a flame?


And fried bear paws adorned on the table definitely not to glorify the hunting abilities of the owner of a house belonging to the highest circles of society and hardly earning food for himself with hunting.

Along with amazing hot dishes at the feasts, sweet baked art was served; dishes made of sugar, gypsum, salt height with a human height and even more. All this was intended mainly for visual perception.

Specially for these purposes, holidays were organized, at which the prince and princess tasted meat, poultry, cakes, and pastries in public on a dais. There was an incredible amount of food and, it should be noted to the honor of the princes, that the remnants of food, not eaten by servants and maids, were shared between the poor.

Colorful food

Multicolored food in the Middle Ages was extremely popular and at the same time easy to prepare.

The cakes and cakes depicted coats of arms, family colors and even whole pictures; Many sweet foods, such as almond milk jelly, were given a wide variety of colors (in the culinary books of the Middle Ages you can find a recipe for making such a three-color jelly). Painted as meat, fish, chicken.


The most common coloring matter:

Green: parsley or spinach
Black: grated black bread or gingerbread; clove powder, black cherry juice.
Red: vegetable or berry juice, (red) beets.
Yellow: Saffron or Egg Yolk with Flour
Brown: Onion Husk

The food was also loved by golding and silvering, but, needless to say, only the chefs of the gentlemen could do this, who were able to provide them with the appropriate means. And although the addition of dyes changed the taste of the dish, but it turned a blind eye for the sake of getting a beautiful color.

However, with dyed food, funny and not-so cases sometimes occurred. So at one celebration in Florence, the guests almost got poisoned by the colorful creation of the inventor-cook, who used chlorine to get white and the verdigris - to get green.


Medieval chefs also showed their resourcefulness and skill during fasting: preparing fish dishes, seasoned them in a special way so that they became similar to meat in taste, invented pseudo-eggs and tried to circumvent strict fasting rules by all means.

Especially tried to clergy and their chefs. So, for example, they expanded the concept of "water animals", reckoning them as a beaver (its tail passed under the category "fish scales"). After all, the post then lasted a third of the year. Today it seems wild to us, however, it was so, and even more: there were still fasting days - Wednesday and Friday - in which it was forbidden to eat meat.


In fact, fasting is not limited to the abandonment of meat. It is also a rejection of eggs, milk, dairy products, such as, for example, cheese and cottage cheese. Only in 1491 was it allowed to eat milk and eggs while fasting.

This is about the rules for ordinary people. In addition to them, there were rules for certain groups of the population, in particular, for members of spiritual orders. So the Benedictines (respectively, the monks, and not the highest clergy) could not eat four-legged animals.

Problems with the consumption of chicken problems existed until the ninth century, when Bishop von Mainz found a loophole in the law: birds and fish were created by God on the same day, and therefore must be attributed to one type of animal. And as you can eat fish caught from the depths of the sea, you can also eat a bird, caught from a bowl of soup.

Four meals

The day began with the first breakfast, limited to a glass of wine. At about 9 o'clock in the morning, there was the time for a second breakfast consisting of several courses.

It should be clarified that this is not a modern "first, second and compote." Each change of dishes consisted of a large number of dishes that servants served to the table. This led to the fact that anyone who organized a banquet - on the occasion of a christening, weddings or a funeral - tried not to lose face and bring to the table as much delicacies as possible, not paying attention to their abilities, and therefore often going into debt.


To put an end to this state of affairs, numerous prescriptions were introduced, regulating the number of dishes and even the number of guests. So, for example, in 1279 the French king Philip III issued a decree saying that “not a single duke, count, baron, prelate, knight, cleric, etc.has no right to eat more than three modest changes of dishes (cheeses and vegetables, unlike cakes and pastries, were not taken into account). The modern tradition of serving one dish at a time comes to Europe from Russia only in the 18th century.

At lunch, it was again allowed to drink only a glass of wine, eating it with a piece of bread dipped in wine. And only for dinner, which took place from 3 to 6 pm, an incredible amount of food was served again. Naturally, this is a "schedule" for the higher strata of society.


Peasants and workers were busy and could not devote food to as much time as aristocrats (they often managed only one modest snack during the day), and their incomes did not allow them: instead of a morning glass of wine - beer, instead of fried meat and sweets - barley porridge and vegetable "soup".

Cutlery and crockery

Two tableware was hard to gain recognition in the Middle Ages: a fork and a plate for personal use. Yes, there were wooden plates for the lower strata and silver or even gold - for the higher ones, however, they ate mostly from common dishes. Moreover, instead of a plate for these purposes, stale bread was sometimes used, which slowly absorbed and did not allow the table to get dirty.


Here it is necessary to say a few words about sauces.Medieval sauces differed from today's: they were very thick, to the extent that they could be cut. Therefore, the thought of expensive sauceboats on princely tables should be abandoned ... But it is quite possible to imagine the sauce lying on stale bread, serving as a stand.

The fork, on the other hand, suffered from the prejudices that existed in society: by its form, it earned a reputation for devilish creation, and Byzantine origin, a suspicious attitude. Therefore, she could “make her way” to the table only as a device for meat. Only in the Baroque era did the controversy about the merits and demerits of the fork become bitter. On the contrary, everyone had their own knife, even women wore it around their waist.


On the tables one could also see spoons, salt shakers, glasses of rock crystal and drinking vessels — often richly decorated, gilded or even silver. However, the latter were not individual, even in rich houses they were shared with their neighbors. Utensils and cutlery from ordinary people were made of wood and clay.

Many peasants in the house had only one spoon for the whole family, and if someone did not want to wait until she reached him in a circle, he could use a piece of bread instead of this cutlery.

Table behavior

Chicken legs and meatballs were scattered in all directions, dirty hands were wiping on the shirt and pants, burping and farting as much as you like, food was torn to pieces, and then swallowed without chewing. ... So, or something like this, we, after reading the records of cunning innkeepers or their adventurer visitors, imagine the behavior of knights at the table today.


In reality, everything was not so extravagant, although there were some curious moments that hit us. In many satires, the rules of behavior at the table, descriptions of eating habits reflected that morality did not always take place at the table along with its master.

For example, a ban to blow your nose into a tablecloth would not occur so often, since this bad habit would not be very common.

How to clean the table

Tables in the modern form (that is, when the tabletop is attached to the legs) in the Middle Ages was not. The table was constructed when this was necessary: ​​wooden stands were installed, and a wooden board was placed on them. Therefore, in the Middle Ages, they did not remove the table from the table - the table was removed ...

Cook: Honor and Respect

The mighty medieval Europe highly appreciated its cooks.In Germany, from 1291, the chef was one of the four most important figures at the court. In France, only noble people became cooks of the highest ranks.


The position of the chief winemaker of France was the third in importance after the posts of the chamberlain and the chief stable. Then followed the breadmaker, the chief winemaker, the chef, the restaurant managers who were closest to the court, and only then the marshals and admirals.

As for the kitchen hierarchy - and a huge number (up to 800 people) of interdependent workers were employed there, the first place was given to the chief in meat. Position, characterized by honor and trust of the king, because no one was insured from the poison. At his disposal were six people who every day chose and cooked meat for the royal family.

Teylevanta, the famous chef of King Charles the Sixth, had 150 subordinates.


And in England, for example, there were 1,000 cooks, 300 lackeys who served 10,000 people at the yard every day at the court of Richard II. A dizzying figure, demonstrating that it was important not so much to feed as to demonstrate wealth.

Cookbooks of the Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, along with spiritual literature, it was cookbooks that most often and willingly corresponded. Around the years from 1345 to 1352, the earliest cookbook of this time was written - “Buoch von guoter spise” (The Book of Good Food). The author is considered to be the notary of the Bishop of Würzburg, Michael de Leon, who, along with his duties to note the expenses of the budget, was engaged in collecting recipes.

Fifty years later, "Alemannische Buchlein von guter Speise" (Alemansky book about good food), the master Hansen, Württemberg chef appears. This was the first cookbook in the Middle Ages, which was the name of the originator. A collection of recipes for the meter Eberhard, the cook of Duke Heinrich III von Bayern-Landshut, appeared around 1495.


Pages from the cookbook "Forme of Cury". It was created by the chef of King Richard II in 1390 and contains 205 recipes used in the court. The book is written in medieval English, and some of the recipes described in this book have long been forgotten by society. For example, “blank mang” (a sweet dish of meat, milk, sugar and almonds).

Around the year 1350, the French cookbook "Le Grand Cuisinier de toute Cuisine" was created, and in 1381 the English "Ancient Cookery" was created. 1390 - "The Forme of Cury", the author is the cook of King Richard II.As for the Danish collection of recipes from the 13th century, it is worth mentioning Henrik Harpenstreng's "Libellus de Arte Coquinaria". 1,354 year - Catalan "Libre de Sent Sovi" by an unknown author.

The most famous cookbook of the Middle Ages was created by the master of Guillaume Tirell, better known by his creative pseudonym Teylivent. He was the cook of King Charles the Sixth, and later even received the title. The book was written between 1373 and 1392, and was published only a century later and included, along with well-known dishes, very original recipes that the rare gourmet would decide to make today.

Today it is believed that the real author of the book was not Teylivet at all, however, he did not just copy the recipes, but improved them and brought them into line with his era.

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  • On the medieval kitchen

    On the medieval kitchen

    On the medieval kitchen

    On the medieval kitchen

    On the medieval kitchen

    On the medieval kitchen

    On the medieval kitchen

    On the medieval kitchen

    On the medieval kitchen

    On the medieval kitchen

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