On The Medieval Diet

‘Today, we are urged to stop eating fast foods with all the nutrition of cardboard and to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. This is actually a return to the peasant diet – a diet that was despised by the nobility. They regarded fruit and veg as the poor man’s food, believing that greens weren’t good for you and that fruit gave you dysentery – the bloody flux.

Peasant bread was much healthier than our white, steam-baked, sliced bread: it was brown, like a good wholemeal loaf. Peas and beans were sometimes added, which made it even more nutritious. In the fields people ate a kind of medieval pot-noodle, a paste of dried vegetables, beans and bread to which they added ale to turn it into an instant meal. Eel pasties were another favourite, and preserved foods such as bacon, cheese and sausages were special treats.

Even for the poorest, the countryside was a larder teeming with wildlife. Rivers were full of fish – there were even plenty of salmon in the Thames – and peasants had elaborate nets and traps to catch songbirds, eels and rabbits. […]

In fact the medieval diet, with lots of coarse grains and grit in the bread, was much better for human teeth than our own. It means they were worn down to a flat plane leaving no room for food to fester. But fossilised plaque in some skeletons’ teeth does suggest that many of the people at Wharram Percy had suffered from bad breath. This was a bit of an issue in medieval times; in Wales a peasant women could divorce her husband on the grounds of his halitosis.’

– Jones. T., Ereira. A. 2004. Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives London, Great Britain: BBC Books (2005) p. 28-29