Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Heaps of meat or just cabbages and turnips? [Summary part 2]

2. The Early Middle Ages (ca. 500-1.000)

There are very few written sources available on early medieval diet and cuisine. That is why archaeology and linked disciplines like archaeobatany and archaeozoology take a big part in researching this period. The characteristics of this time are a low population number, badly imporved infrastructure and frequently interrupted trade routes. Nobility and clergy were at the top of the beginning social hierarchy. In some regions of what is today Germany, mainly in the east, christianity just started to defeat paganism. Agriculture and livestock, on a lesser level even hunting, fishing and gathering, insured food production. Horticulture and viticulture had no big significants and were mainly done in kloisters, royal manors and some few regions. About 60-80 kg of meat, depending on the social status, have been consumed per year. Clergy and nobility could afford more flesh, better qualities of food, wine, fruits and exotic imports.
   The farmers grew cereals like barley, oats, millet, emmer, einkorn, spelt - later ray, also - for pulses, porridges and bread. Wheat was expensive and therefore only available for the wealthy. The yearly consumtion of cereals lay at about 120-150 kg per person. Besides of meat pork, cattle, sheep, goat and poultry also produced dairy products, eggs and other food stuff. Vegetable food and its quantitity in diet is hard to grasp. The Capitulare de Villes of Carolus Magnus gives examples on what to grow in kloister gardens and on royale manors but it is doubtfull in which extend those regulations were followed and wether they are representative for the common garden culture of the time. The use of different kinds of leguminous plants, cales, onions, leeks, garlic, root vegetables and wild plants could be identified in archaeological excavations and written sources. Hony, berries, wild fruits, hazelnuts, wild hops, wild vegetables and other natural resources could be found in the vast woods. The forests were important for stock feeding, either. 
   Because of a lack in written sources, there is not much to say on early medieval cuisine. The kitchen equipment and furnishing were quite simple. Fire places directly on the ground dominated. Ceramics, wooden dishes, cauldrons of metall, pans, roasting spits and roasting grills were used by the cooks. Metall equipment was expensive. There are very few recipes recorded.

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