What did wealthy Europeans eat before the discovery of the Americas?

May 2017
161
Monterrey
#11
Just no after dinner smoke unfortunately
No tobacco, but weed was available(at least in theory).

While many foods that were native to the Americas were imported into Europe, I'm not aware of any that were considered delicacies that only the wealthy could afford.
Indeed, potato is probably the most famous of the imported crop, and it was definitely something that improved the diet of poor people(replacing rutabaga). Tomato likewise, though it became the staple of many sauces.

How about chocolate?
 
Last edited:
Sep 2012
1,043
Tarkington, Texas
#12
The Aztecs drank hot Chocolate with Chili Peppers mixed in. The Spanish mixed it with Vanilla and Sugar and we got our modern favorite. Lots of poorer people went out and foraged for herbs, mushrooms and various green vegetables. Coastal villages had access to seafood and seaweed. Dead whales were reserved for the king. Peasants would have used slings for birds and small animals. The well to do would have access to salted meats. Spices helped when that meat began to turn. The wealthy would have had access to better alcoholic beverages.

Pruitt
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,098
Republika Srpska
#13
Well, as far as medieval Serbia is concerned, the wealthy had a lot of options. There was a sort of a triad: meat, bread, wine. They of course ate the best meat available and Byzantine sources tell us that Serbia was rich with game and that its rulers eat from golden cups and plates. A Western source tells us that Serbia was rich in "grain, wine, oil and meat." Serb noblemen also interestingly ate meat from now-extinct animals like the aurochs. They also ate deer meat, pork, beef, bird meat etc. The wealthy could afford things like fish from the sea, seafood, Rajiformes, eels, squids. The most expensive food items were spices, sugar and wine and were only available to the elite. The ordinary people ate mostly vegetables and instead of wine, drank things like mead and beer. The Serbian rulers also had frequent feasts that were meant to display their power. A lot of these expensive things were imported, but Serbia was also an exporter of food. Dried meat was exported, but perhaps the most important exported food was Vlach cheese, cheese made by Serb shepherds called Vlachs. It was often exchanged for things like spices and sugar. Wine was produced in Serbia, for example monasteries produced it, but it was restricted to the elite. There was also honey production which was heavily regulated by the rulers as well as salt production which was also regulated.

Some depictions of food on frescoes from Serb monasteries:
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From the 13th century Sopo─çani Monastery
 
Aug 2013
162
Finland
#14
Indeed, potato is probably the most famous of the imported crop, and it was definitely something that improved the diet of poor people(replacing rutabaga). Tomato likewise, though it became the staple of many sauces.

How about chocolate?
Sugar became more more readily available from the New World (meaning it got cheaper) with the availability of new sugar crops and turkey became available too. I am not sure how expensive Chocolate was, probably it was quite a luxury? Anything that still had to be imported from the New World would not have been cheap, but everything that could be grown easily in the Old World would have been available to peasants.
 
Aug 2013
162
Finland
#17
I think bread of differing levels of quality was used a lot more than today, not only separately as just bread but also in other dishes, for example to thicken soups or broths. Also bread was used as plates (trenchers) and especially the wealthy might give the used, soaked trenchers to the poor as food rather than eating them themselves.

From the pictures it looks like Olde Hanse doesn't offer trenchers but it looks interesting, I will have to check them out the next time I visit Tallinn :)
 
Jan 2009
1,258
#18
From the pictures it looks like Olde Hanse doesn't offer trenchers but it looks interesting, I will have to check them out the next time I visit Tallinn :)
It is an experience, definitely, with candle lighting and wooden benches and all that. If they offer it, the wild boar is worth having. The bear was a disappointment, but at least now I can say I have had it; I am in no hurry to have it again, though.

If you are on a bit more of a budget, there is a small 'tavern' at the old town hall, III Draakon. They serve elk soup, but it is not historical, as it has potatoes in it, too. Very good, though, especially if you are visiting the place during the colder months and appreciate getting something warm to eat.
 
Likes: chefren

Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,698
Lower Styria, Slovenia
#20
Like, said they'd eat a lot more meat than the peasents. Here in the Slovene Lands peasents hunted dormice, which was a rare source of meat for them. Nobles would have no need for that, they'd eat meat from wild game and domesticated animals. The rich would put all sorts of spices and honey in their wine too, not just food. I imagine their wine would be somewhat repulsing by today's standards. Actual sugar would be only for the rich as well and to that you can add sweets decorated with gold. Poultry would often be decorated with the birds feathers when served, to make it look more lifelike.