Saxons & Vikings – food facts – History cookbook

anglo saxon diet

History Cookbook

Honey was easily available from bees and was a very important source of food. Mead was made from honey and water fermented with yeast. Its alcoholic content was variable. It was sometimes brewed with spices, fruits, or grain mash. Mead with a low alcoholic content was drunk by children and adults.

However, pigs may have been kept and slaughtered all year round.

Cooking in the open air would have been healthier whenever the weather permitted, as the homes would have become very smoky and there was also a risk of fire.

Rye, like oats, could be rolled into flakes and, with the husks removed, could be used to make porridge-like dishes.

It is thought that crops such as peas and beans were cultivated (some researchers believe peas were not introduced until Norman times, but others believe that the Normans only introduced new varieties).

Many more plants were used for food than are eaten today.
Crab apples and rosehips were used along with sloes and bilberries. Herbs, such as wild garlic, sorrel and lamb’s tongue grew wild but others like mint and mustard were grown near the house for daily use.

Fruits we are more familiar with today would also eaten. There would have been blackberries and strawberries in season.

Meat was either roasted on a spit or boiled in a vat, with vegetables, to make a stew. Fish was wrapped in leaves to preserve the juices and then cooked between stones.

The Anglo-Saxons would have spent a considerable amount of time grinding their flour and baking enough bread for the whole village.

The Vikings would exchange cattle and swords, pelts and amber in return for leather, silks and spices from the East. For the Anglo-Saxon farmer and the Vikings who had settled in Britain, spices would have been very expensive and very precious.

On special occasions the Anglo-Saxon freemen would be invited to the lord’s hall to share a feast, where ale and mead would be served in great quantities. There would be entertainment in the form of tales of great warriors and riddles (particularly popular). Minstrels would play on a pipe or lyre (a stringed instrument).

In Viking halls, lords and their guests would listen to sagas and poems and play board games. Music came from harps and box-wood pipes.

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