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Elizabethan Food

Poor people may have had humble and unvaried diets consisting largely of bread, fish, cheese and ale, but the rich of Elizabethan England ate well. All kind of meats were served such as lamb, beef, mutton, pork, bacon, veal, rabbit, hare, and foul such as peacock, swan, goose, blackbirds and pigeon. They also ate different kind of freshwater and sea fish. Meat would often be smoked in an attempt to preserve it, but salt, spice and sugar helped to disguise the taste of rotting meat. Vegetables such as turnips, parsnips, carrots, onions, leeks, garlic and radishes were also eaten, and fruits such as apples, pears, plums, cherries and woodland strawberries.  However, vegetables and fruits were regarded with some suspicion and it was far more common for roasted and boiled meat to be accompanied with bread.

Over the course of the Tudor period, more and more foods were introduced into society as they were discovered in the New World, such as Tomatoes from Mexico, Turkey from Mexico and Central America, Kidney Beans from Peru, and of course the Potato famously brought to England by Sir Walter Raleigh in the later years of Elizabeth’s reign. However, the Elizabethans did not know quite how to use or cook these foods to their optimum, so they were not as tasty as they could have been and tended to be kept as special delicacies.

As well as a good meal, the Tudors were fond of desserts. They enjoyed pastries, tarts, cakes, cream, and custard, and crystallised fruit and syrup. They were especially fond of sugar and marzipan and on special occasions such as banquets, all kinds of specialities would be made out of sugar and marzipan such as animals, birds, fruits or baskets. Sometimes wine glasses, dishes, playing cards and trenchers were made out of a crisp modelled sugar called sugar-plate which would be elaborately decorated.

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