The Elizabethan did not eat much differently than many societies do today. They certainly loved their food and there were some new inventions and sugar was more frequently used during this era. So it was not uncommon on special occasions, much like today, to see fresh baked pies at many of the festivals held throughout England each year.
As far as common course meals, they were a little bit different. Generally during the Elizabethan period and before this time, there was little meat served to lower class citizens. It was commonly reserved for the wealthy. However, it started becoming more prevalent since there was meat being sold at livestock markets. The primary source of protein was probably given through fish to the lower class.
When it came to the visual appearance of food during the Elizabethan era it was very important to have an appetizing appearance. Much like today where we certainly want things to look and smell good, this was the same case during this time period to. The wealthy particularly would have a lot of things adorning their dishes. In fact, peacock feathers were sometimes used as a decoration for cooked foods.
Purchasing food during Elizabethan times was done slightly differently. Unlike today where you drive into the local supermarket and it has everything you need, this was not the case throughout England during the Elizabethan era.
In fact, there were typically several different markets. Some would offer dairy, others would offer fish, and then you might find vegetable markets and fruit markets elsewhere. Meat itself was sold totally separate as mentioned above in livestock markets.
The cooking methods used during the Elizabethan era were much as you would expect today. The difference from Elizabethans to today is that we often use electricity to produce the heat. Most of the cooking for Elizabethans was done with an open flame. However, you still had the common preparations of baking, roasting, boiling, smoking, and frying things. The Elizabethans loved to eat good meals!
Kitchen Equipment during Elizabethan times
brick ovens, working table, spits, pots, posnetts, chafing-dishes, graters, mortars and pestles, boilers, knives, cleavers axes, dripping-pans, pot-racks, pot-hooks, gridirons, frying pans, sieves, kneading troughs.
Also fire shovels, barrels, tubs, pantry, buttery (wine and other provisions stored here), wet and dry larders, spicery, mealhouse sieving or bolting house, coals kep in squillerie along with brass pots and pans, pewter vessels and herbs, covered dishes, court cupboard, sideboards.
Elizabethan England Cooking
- Elizabethan Era Drinking vessels: gold, silver, pewter, horn, leather, glass, earthenware.
- Meat: beef, mutton, lamb, veal, kid, port, coney, pig, venison, fish (sometimes salted–pike, salmon, haddock, gurnard, tench, sturgeon, conger-eels, carp, lampreys, chines of salmon, perch, white herring, shrimp, pilchards, mackerel, oysters), sausage, eggs, sheep’s feet, meat pies.
- Due to lack of refrigeration, techniques for preparing spoiled meat–vinegar, burying, sauces, spices.
- Fowl domestic and wild–crane, bitter, swan, brant, lark, plover, quail, teal, widgeon, mallard, shelldrake, shoveller, peewit, scamen, knot, olicet, dun bird, partridge, pheasant, sparrows, doves, pigeons, cocks, hens, geese, ducks, peacocks of the Ind, turkeys, pelican, blackbirds.
- Vegetables used were beans, turnips, greens, parsnips, carrots, cabbage, colewart, beetroot, salsify, artichokes, asparagus, peas, salads, lettuce, onions, leeks, pumpkins, melon, cucumbers, skirret, horseradish, gourds, olives, potatoes, yams.
- Herbs: chervil, young sow thistle, corn salad, leaves of clary, spotted cowslip.
- Bread: wheat, white, rye, barley. In times of dearth bread made of horse-corn, peas, beans, oats, tares, lentils, acorns.
- Fruits: oranges, cherries, rasberries, strawberries, mulberries, peaches, apricots, cornels, currants, raisins, lemons, gooseberry, plums, pears, apples, grapes.
- Sweets: custard, jellies, eringoes, comfits, suckets, codinac, marmalade, cakes, pastries, sugar bread, gingerbread, flan, seed cake, pudding, mincepies, sugar, honey.
- Drinks: stale ale, spirits, milk, buttermilk, whey. Tea and coffee were unknown until well into the 1600s.