How to Eat in the 16th Century

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How to Eat in the 16th Century

Meals change over time. What we eat, and how much we eat changes. In the 16th century we see the transition from the medieval context of two main meals a day, with the first one happening sometime after 10 am, to a more modern concept of three meals a day. However, even still, they were not the same style of meals we’re used to.

How to put together a basic set of food for a day, not a feasting day, but a standard day. For some of this I’ll be using previous work I’ve done, the OED, and I double checked a few various texts. Think of this one not so much of an article as a set of guidelines for making things more period for those of us who are 16th century.

In Tudor England the three meals of the day were called Breakfast (brekfast, brekefast, breckfast), though this was not eaten by everyone, however it did gain in promenence through the 16th century; Dinner (diner, dyner, dinere, dener, dynnor, dennar) was the meal eaten around the middle of the day, from what I can tell it could be eaten as early as ten or as late as two, this also tended to be the larger meal of the day; Supper (soper, sopper, soupier, suppare, suppair, super) was the final meal of a day. There is the implication that this meal was a lighter meal than dinner and probably generally consisted of either soup or pottage.

Breakfast:

  • Beer or Ale
  • Bread & Butter
  • Bacon
  • Cheese?
  • Eggs (late 16th century?)

Dinner:

  • Beer or Ale or Wine
  • Bread & Butter
  • Cheese
  • Sausages
  • roast meat or meat pie
  • Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Olives

Supper:

  • Beer or Ale or Wine
  • Bread & Butter
  • Cheese?
  • Pottage, Stew, or Soup

 

So, how to turn this into a meal plan for your eventing?

Breakfast:

  • Beverage of choice – I’m not giving up my morning coffee, but the more period option would be a lighter beer or ale
  • Bread & Butter – I love the pane di casa at Cobs Bread as it tastes similar to 16th century bread, and you can pre-order them in any size, and even whole wheat for a more period feel
  • Bacon – fry up a pan of bacon to top your bread, it’s less salty and more smokey than period bacon, but we’re going for the look/feel here not the perfectly period
  • Cheese – just have cheese available for every meal, it’s a solid mainstay
  • Eggs – do you have any “big breakfast” people camping with you? Make scrambled eggs with currants or raisins in it, use some of the bacon grease to add even more flavour

Dinner:

  • Beverage of choice – beer for lunch, go for either an amber ale, dark ale, or a citrusy beer
  • Bread & Butter
  • Cheese
  • Sausage – either fry up some sausages or go for a smoked sausage that you can eat cold
  • One of:
    • Meat pie – there are a ton of great period meat pie recipes out there, and many of them taste great cold
    • Steak – yes, grilled steak is period, though the steak sauce of preference was a ginger/cinnamon sauce, but that was for topping it after, you just grill it up plain
    • Roast chicken – it’s easy to get, cheap, not hard to pan fry when camping and if you’re daytripping you can just get a pre-roasted one at the grocery store
  • Almonds, cherries, apples, raisins, olives, pickles – just keep these on hand for people who get peckish through the rest of the day

Supper:

  • Beverage of choice – now’s a great time to break out the wine, or you can go for more beer
  • Bread & Butter
  • Cheese
  • One of:
    • Pottage – grain, meat, stock, there’s tons of variety, it’s super filling, and really adds to the period atmosphere
    • Stew – stews would generally have meat, stock, some sort of fruit, wine or wine vinegar, and bread to thicken it – think Meat, Liquid, Sweet, Bitter, Thickener
    • Soup – easy to make and infinite variety

 

 

 

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