Class mattered in the middle ages. A person’s parentage defined most of the salient facts of their lives from what they did for a living to what they ate. Nobles were served meals of up to six courses of meat seasoned with exotic spices prepared by a veritable army of servants while peasants made do with the vegetables and livestock they could raise themselves. Farming was relatively similar to today with livestock mostly consisting of cows, pigs, goats and sheep, while plants included: root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, leeks, and onions, as well as squash, beans, peas, and naturally, wheat. Generally, farm-cultivated vegetables were considered crude because they were grown in the dirt and so were reserved for peasants while nobles ate mostly meat from game animals. Only the nobles were entitled to hunt game animals and a peasant caught poaching would lose either his hands or his life depending on the scenario. This meant that noble tables usually included venison, quail, rabbit and wild boar, while peasant tables did not.
Food preservation was a significant problem in the middle ages. Foodstuffs were either salted, dried or pickled in order to allow them to last through the winter months. The problem was that all of these processes often resulted in lowered nutritional value or horrible flavor. A result was that food was oftentimes left out for far too long without preservation and rotten meats were simply covered with spices to disguise the flavor. Alchemists, with their advanced knowledge of science, would have realized the dangers of this and possibly implemented an early form of food regulation. Also, it is possible that with their advanced knowledge of glass-working and metallurgy, Alchemists could have discovered an early form of canning foods– allowing for a significant increase in the possible amount of time in which food could be preserved without impacting flavor or nutritional value.
Even in our modern age, yeast is a poorly understood natural phenomenon to the every day baker. Yeast is in fact a common single-celled fungus that is present in the air we breathe. In the middle ages, people had a basic understanding that a piece of dough from a good batch of bread could be saved and used later to create another batch with a similar flavor. The intricacies of yeast in rising bread were noted but not understood and the process was nearly mystical to early bakers. The scientific-minded alchemists in Addletown would have seen this as an interesting area of research. By studying the growth of yeast through microscopes, it is possible that they would have discovered the entire concept of microorganisms and laid the groundwork for sterilization and antibiotics.
PLAGUE & FOOD
One important fact about everyday food in the middle ages is that the plague greatly increased the availability of food. With huge percentages of human populations dying off, food became much more plentiful by proportion. Meats and cheeses–rarities at the table of a commoner in the early middle ages–were suddenly much more common after the plague and it would be more likely for the poor to seen seen eating meats at least once a day if not with every meal. Considering that Adaboy takes place after the plague has already ravaged the population, it is likely that Addletownians would have a wide variety of different foods.