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Frequently Asked Questions




General questions

When were the middle ages?

Did they use spices to cover the taste of spoiled meat?

What color was the sugar?

What color were carrots?


Did they have ...

Did they have cheddar cheese?

Did they have potatoes?

Did they have tomatoes?

Did they have cookies?

Did they have broccoli?


Did they eat ...

Did they eat cats?

Did they eat horse?




General questions


When were the middle ages?

The medieval period is a bit hard to pin down, and strongly depends on what part of Europe is being considered. For example the fifteenth century is considered as the Renaissance in Italy, but is the high middle ages in England. As a general rule I use the dates of 1000 CE to 1500 CE.


Did they use spices to cover the taste of spoiled meat?

Absolutely not. This myth has its origins in Victorian-era England and has no basis in fact. Such a practice would have been unfeasible in terms of health (it would have killed them), economics (it would have been way too expensive), and logistics (it would have required vast amounts of meat to be kept hanging around for days).

For more information on this subject, see Drummond's Rotten Meat: When Good Sources Go Bad in the Notes & Natterings.


What color was the sugar?

White. They were able to refine sugar to a surprisingly high quality. For more on this, see the page on sugar in the Notes & Natterings.


What color were carrots?

Medieval carrots were much the same size as modern ones and came in a variety of colors, including white, yellow, orange, red, brown, and purple. For more on this, see the page on carrots in the Notes & Natterings.




Did they have ...


Did they have cheddar cheese?

Cheese has been made in Cheddar England since the town existed, so in that sense "Cheddar cheese" is medieval. However the standardized cheddaring process only dates back to the 18th century, and the word "cheddar" itself, meaning a type of cheese, only dates back to 1655.

In short, there is no strong evidence that any kind of cheese we call "cheddar" today is anything like the cheese produced in Cheddar England back in 1170.


Did they have potatoes?

No. Potatoes originated in the Americas, and were therefore unavailable in Europe before 1492.


Did they have tomatoes?

No. Tomatoes originated in the Americas, and were therefore unavailable in Europe before 1492.


Did they have cookies?

Not as we know them. Most cookies require baking powder or baking soda for leavening, both of which were invented after the mid-18th century. A similar chemical, ammonium bicarbonate (also known as sal volatile or salt of hartshorn), existed in the late middle-ages but wasn't used in baking until the 17th century.


Did they have broccoli?

Maybe. The history of broccoli is unclear. For more on this, see the page on broccoli in the Notes & Natterings.




Did they eat ...


Did they eat cats?

There is at least one recipe for cat in the existing medieval cookbooks, and the wording suggests that it was not something commonly served to the nobility. It is unclear whether the lower classes routinely ate cat meat. The text of the recipe can be found in the Odd Foods section of the page on Oddities.


Did they eat horse?

Yes. While there are very few surviving recipes for horse meat, it does appear to have been eaten at least occasionally.




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