Food in Tudor England
Food in Tudor England - Food Availability
What food was available to the people of Tudor England? Home grown produce was used to feed the majority of people in Tudor England. Poor harvests, such as those which occurred in the 1590's, had a bad effect on the economy and a devastating effect on the English people which led to starvation in some areas. The booming wool trade had changed the face of English agriculture and the land enclosures led to an increase in the number of people living in poverty in England and the introduction of the 1601 Poor Law. The types of food in Tudor England available to the Upper Class Tudors differed considerably to the food available to the lower class Tudors.
Food in Tudor England - Meat available
Food in Tudor England included a vast range of different meat . The meats included venison, beef, pork, veal, goat, lamb, rabbit, hare, mutton, swans, herons and poultry. Chickens were believed to have been introduced to England by the Romans. Only lords and nobles of Tudor England were allowed to hunt deer, boar, hares and rabbits. The punishment for poaching in Tudor England could result in death or having hands cut off.
Food in Tudor England - Fish available
Food in Tudor England also included a vast range of different fish. The range of fish included herring, salmon, eel, whiting, plaice, cod, trout and pike. Shell fish also featured in Tudor food and included crab, oysters, mussels and cockles. Only the Upper Classes benefited from this vast range of food. The wealthy Tudors also enjoyed various spices imported from abroad.
Food in Tudor England - Bread
The main parts of the basic diet in Food in Tudor England were bread, meat and fish. Bread was the most important component of the diet and food in Tudor England. The Upper Class Tudors ate Manchet, a bread loaf made of wheat flour. The Tudor Lower Classes ate rye and barley bread. Different types of bread made from wheat were as follows:
- Manchet - Fine White Bread
- Cheat or wheaten bread - Coarse texture, grey in color
- Ravelled Bread - containing less of the pure substance of the wheat
- Brown or Black bread
Food in Tudor England - Dairy Products
The Food in Tudor England included various dairy products. The dairy products produced in the Tudor era included milk, cream, butter and cheese. Milk was used as an Tudor beverage and cream, curds, whey, butter and cheese was a by-product of this basic commodity. Strawberries and cream was on the menu in Tudor England! Eggs were also consumed! Butter was stored in wooden barrels called firkins but only used by the Upper Classes for cooking food. Several types of cheese was available. Hard cheeses were made from skimmed mild, soft cheeses were made from whole milk. All of these dairy products were deemed inferior foods and therefore only to be eaten by the Tudor poor and lower classes.
Food in Tudor England - Vegetables
The term "vegetable" was used only rarely during Tudor times. Instead the term "herb" covered all green plants, roots and herbs. Food items which came from the ground were only are considered fit for the poor during the Tudor period. Only vegetables such as rape, onions, garlic and leeks graced a Noble's table.
Food in Tudor England - Daily Meals
The number of daily meals eaten during the day by the Tudors were as follows:
- Breakfast - Food and drink generally served between 6 -7
- Dinner - Food and drink generally served at mid-morning between 12 - 2
- Supper - Was a substantial meal and food and drink was generally served between 6 -7 and accompanied by various forms of entertainment
The poor Tudors also had three meals but obviously far less elaborate than the Upper Classes.
Food in Tudor England - Daily Food Consumption for the poor Tudors of the lower classes
The food eaten daily by the average poor Tudor in England consisted of at least ½ lb. bread, 1 pint of beer, 1 pint of porridge, and 1/4 lb of meat. This would have been supplemented with some dairy products - vegetables were a substantial ingredient of soups. Records show that the daily ration of a food for a Tudor soldier with 2 lb. of beef or mutton with l lb. cheese, l/2 lb. butter, 1.5 lb. bread and 2/3 gallon of beer! It is probably worth pointing out that the the beer had a very low alcohol content!
Food in Tudor England - Daily Tudor Food Consumption for the rich Tudors
The quantity, quality and type of food consumed by the Tudor Upper Classes in England differed considerably from the diet of the Lower Classes. The number of courses and variety of Tudor foods consumed by the Upper Classes included ingredients which were too expensive for the majority of ordinary people in England. The Upper classes had a taste for spicy and also sweet foods and could afford the expensive spices and sugar required to create these exotic recipes. In a Description Of Tudor England, 1577 from Holinshed's Chronicles Upper Class food consumption was described as follows:
Description Of Tudor Food Consumption in England, 1577
In number of dishes and change of meat the nobility of England (whose cooks are for the most part musical-headed Frenchmen and strangers) do most exceed, sith there is no day in manner that passeth over their heads wherein they have not only beef, mutton, veal, lamb, kid, pork, cony, capon, pig, or so many of these as the season yieldeth, but also some portion of the red or fallow deer, beside great variety of fish and wild fowl, and thereto sundry other delicates
Food in Tudor England
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