EBK Activity Sheets


Food & Drink
What people ate in the Dark Ages

Dark Age Food & Drink -  Nash Ford Publishing
  • Most Anglo-Saxons were largely vegetarian. Poor Saxons ate chicken, bacon and pork sausages, but red meat (farmed and hunted) was only for the rich. Pork also seems to have been very popular amongst the British. They liked beef and mutton too, but there does not seem to have been much British hunting.

  • Protein came mostly from eggs (chicken, duck & goose), butter, cheese and fish.

  • Nets, fishing rods and fish weirs (wickerwork funnel traps) were used to catch fish. The Saxons also imported dried fish from Norway. Freshwater fish included burbot, eels, lampreys, pike and trout. Marine fish and other sea-food included cod, crab, flounders, herring, lobster, oysters, plaice, salmon, sprats, and sturgeon.

  • Barley was the staple of both the British and Saxon diet, but it was later replaced by wheat. Both were made into bread and beer. The Saxons also made pottage or 'briw' (barley or wheat boiled up with peas, beans or vegetables).

  • Flour was ground by hand in rotary querns (two big spinning stones). Later water mills were built.

  • Bread was wholemeal and baked on hearth stones (not in ovens). Saxon loaves were small and round. These were the real "cakes" that King Alfred burnt. British loaves were round and flat.

  • The main vegetable that Saxons ate was the leek, but they also liked onions, garlic, cabbages (which were more like curly kale in those days), turnips, beetroot, parsnips, white carrots, peas and beans.

  • They were mostly used as flavourings. Herbs were mostly used in medicine, but pepper, coriander and ginger were not unknown in expensive cooking. There was no sugar, so honey was used as a sweetener. Salt came from the salt mines in Worcestershire.

  • Fruit, of course, was always popular: apples, pears, plums, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and grapes.

  • Only water from springs was safe to drink. Most people (including children) drank beer. Some people drank milk (from cows and sheep). The British liked cider. Rich Saxon thanes, British lords and their friends also drank wine  and mead (alcoholic honey drink). The British probably maintained a wine trade with Europe for some years after the Roman army left.

  • People ate with knives and the rich drank from drinking horns or glass 'claw beakers'.

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