Anglo-Saxon & Vikings
Bringing History to Life
With the collapse of Roman administration in Britain, the way was paved for the arrival on these shores of Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and later Danes and Norwegians (Vikings). The resulting kingdoms, and the “Danelaw”, eventually became Anglo-Saxon England.
Food history during this period is very scant. Sandwiched between the influence of the Romans and the Forme of Cury from the time of King Richard II (r. AD 1377 - 1399) much of what we presume to know is educated guesswork. Unfortunately the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings recorded little in the way of recipes but from the archaeological record we can infer that most of the fruits and vegetables known to the Romano-Britons continued to be cultivated, harvested and eaten. Bread also continued to be a staple part of the diet of rich and poor. We know that wheat, rye, oats and barley were all grown; wheat for bread, barley for brewing and oats for porridge and animal fodder.
Most meals would have been some form of stew, soup or pottage cooked in a cauldron over the central hearth of the house. Such meals mostly comprised seasonal vegetables, although some ingredients may have been preserved by drying or pickling. While heavily dependent on bread and vegetables it would not be true to say most people were vegetarian. The poor might use meat sparingly to add flavour to dishes, while the diet of the rich might feature meat much more often.
From the archaeological record we know a variety of fish were eaten. Those living near the sea, or at least with reasonable access to its bounty, ate as herring, flounder, whiting, plaice, and cod. Likewise, shellfish, especially oysters, mussels and cockles, formed part of many peoples' diets. The rivers of Britain provided salmon, brown trout and eel, as well as some less familiar species like pike, perch and roach. Fish was typically eaten fresh, but was also preserved for less plentiful times of year by salting, pickling, smoking and drying.
Milk would have been used to make butter and cheese, especially sheep's and goat's milk. Eggs from chickens, ducks and geese would also have been eaten, as would said birds if they were no longer laying.