The Elizabethan culture has many unusual aspects to it. Their food was one of the more unusual. Many different foods made up the Elizabethan diet and nothing was wasted. In this paper those foods, along with food trends, feasts, and recipes will be portrayed. Food for the Elizabethans was a way of coming together and a way of showing status in society.
In Daily Life in Elizabethan England, breakfast was rarely eaten. If eaten it was usually pottage (stew), bread, or leftovers. Dinner was the biggest meal of the day for commoners and served at noon. Supper was the bigger meal for the upper class and served between six and nine o’clock. Some dinner dishes included pottage, roasted lamb, baked venison, tarts, and roasted rabbit. Bread was a staple in the Elizabethan diet. The upper class enjoyed the whitest Elizabethan bread, called Manchet. The lower class ate rye, barely, and mixed-grain breads. Fish was a large part of their diet and so were vegetables. Spices were used as a way to demonstrate one’s social position. Ale was the traditional drink.
“Supper and Feasts,” from the web site Let-Them-Eat-Cake offered a look into upper class food. Supper was often a grand occasion, as nobility liked to entertain guests at huge banquets especially on holy days, weddings, and Christmas. The most Chatel 2 lavish feasts had three courses, with as many as 15 dishes a course. Some of these included peacocks along with other fancy birds that were served with their feathers on.
Any type of meat rarely was served in a meal twice. Meals were eaten with fingers, there were no forks only spoons and knives. Sugar was a luxury only the rich could afford.
Many ate so many sweets and desserts it caused black teeth. Common people had better teeth because of the little sugar they had in their diets from fruits.
The articles “Snack Foods” and “What We Eat” from the Renaissance web site told of the many sweet foods eaten as snacks. Marzipan, an almond paste, sweetened, colored, and made into many fancy shapes. Gingerbread, sweet cakes, puddings, daryole (cheesecakes), custards, and fruit pies. The most commonly used flavoring in sweets are almonds. Cinnamon, clove, and sandalwood are also some well-used spices.
Sugar is imported and much too expensive for the common man. Only the wealthy are able to get sugar.
In “Ingredients Used in the Sixteenth Century English Cookery” from the web site Infotrope listed the many meats, spices, fruits, vegetables, and dried foods used in dishes.
Some of the most commonly used are beef, venison, lamb, pork, rabbit, and birds, duck, chickens, pigeons, fish, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, sage, carrots, onions, radishes, a scallion, turnips, beans, figs, gooseberries, apples, dries currants. Another interesting tidbit was that due to an increased longing for privacy the upper class sometimes ate their meals in a “closet” (a small private room.) The servants and household staff members ate in the main hall.
To give the class an idea of what Elizabethan food is really like I will be bringing in three dishes to go with my presentation. The dishes are Maid of Honor Cakes, Tarts of Chatel 3 Flesh (pork dumplings), and an Apple and Orange Tart. My biggest interest of the Elizabethan food trends were the feasts they had. A poster will be part of the Elizabethan food presentation but has yet to be completed. The poster will include pictures of different dishes, tableware, etiquette, classic paintings of Elizabethan feasts, and a menu of a wedding feast. The food was one of the many reasons the Elizabethan time period has place in history. I hope I have at least given a little taste of why that is so far.