As explorers crossed the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, new foods and drinks were introduced.
There was tea from China and chocolate from Mexico. Potatoes arrived in Britain in the 1580’s (although at first they were thought unhealthy because they grew underground). Turkeys were introduced from America around 1525. More
Food was a status symbol, and the rich ate at least three good meals a day.
The aristocracy had access to a wide range of foods and ate several meals a day, each made up of a number of courses. Each course contained a variety of dishes from which the guests could choose. They were all placed on the table at the same time.
Meat and game were extremely popular.
The records suggest that almost 80% of the diet of richer people was meat. However, it may have been that more vegetables were eaten but that their use was not recorded. More
Those who could afford it loved sweet foods.
The Tudors loved sweet flavours and fruity sauces, rich pastries and puddings. Confectionery was very important. At the end of rich meals or feasts came the fashionable puddings and sweetmeats. Most people continued to use honey to sweeten their food. The use of sugar was a status symbol.
Some feasts were very rich indeed. Presenting the food well was vital.
The feast was colourful and noisy. Along with the food, there would be musicians, acrobats and other entertainers to amuse the diners. More
The middle class merchants ate similar food to rich people, but less of it.
It was also more plainly presented. Servants in rich households were also reasonably well fed. More
The poor, however, lived on a very dull diet.
They only had one cooked meal a day. Their main food was a coarse grey bread made of rye and barley (sometimes with pea or bean flour mixed in). More
Fish was eaten by rich and poor.
There were laws telling people that they had to eat fish on certain days, instead of meat. This was for religious reasons and also to support the fishing industry. More
The only ways to preserve meat or fish were by smoking or salting.
Before cooking, salted meat was soaked many times but it never completely lost its saltiness. If soaked for a long time, most of the salt would be removed but so would the flavour of the meat, making it almost tasteless. More
Spices and sauces were very important in cooking.
They hid the taste of the salty or bland meat and showed how rich and important people were. 'Dear as pepper’ was a common saying. More
During the reign of Elizabeth I, dishes used spices imported from all corners of the world.
There was pepper from India, cinnamon from Ceylon, nutmeg, mace and cloves from the Spice Islands. More
Spices were used to add flavour and not to hide the taste of rotten meat.
Many people have said that spices were popular because they were able to hide the taste of rotten meat. Today, most scholars do not believe this, as eating bad meat would make you sick. Spices would have been used to cover up the saltiness of some meat and make other meat dishes more tasty. More
Vegetables could only be eaten when they were in season.
This was because there was no way of storing food, other than pickling. More
In the 16th century, people thought fresh fruit was bad for you.
Therefore people cooked it to make jam, preserves or fillings for pies. Common fruits were pears, apples, plums, damsons, cherries and strawberries. Some fruit was dried to use later in the year - dried apple rings, for example, were popular. More
People mainly drank ale. In this era, hops were first used to preserve the drink.
The water, especially in the filthy towns, was contaminated with sewage and too polluted to drink, unless boiled; so the poor drank watered down ale, known as 'small beer’, while the rich drank wine and sherry. More
Tudor sailors spent many days at sea and so had to take food with them that would keep.
They took food which kept easily. Hardtack – iron-hard ships' biscuits, made from a mixture of salted flour and wheat - were a staple part of the diet. More
The food on long voyages became infested with maggots.
Water quickly became stale and covered with algae, so sailors drank beer (up to 8 pints a day). As the voyage went on, the food would become infested with worms, maggots and other creatures. More
There were shops in towns but most food was homemade.
In towns, people could buy goods from bakers, butchers, fishmongers, brewers and cooks; however, the majority people made most of their own food. More
Foods were cooked in a variety of ways: by boiling, roasting or baking.
Meat was boiled or cooked on spits over the fires. Soups, broth or pottage was cooked over an open fire and bread and pastries were baked in simple brick ovens. More
Bread plates, known as trenchers, were replaced by wood or pewter plates.
These plates were made from a square piece of wood or pewter with a shallow, round hollow in the middle. Rich people liked to show off their gold and silver plates and bowls. More
People ate with knives, spoons or their fingers.
You had to bring your own cutlery as this was not provided. Spoons, in particular, were highly prized status symbols: the more expensive the spoon, the higher up in society you were. More
When eating, you were expected to behave in certain ways.
It was thought rude to finish everything at the table, because the lower orders ate the leftovers, known as ‘manners’. More
You could be sharing the trencher/plate with up to four others.
Therefore, you did not put bones or unwanted food back in the dinner plate but on a separate dish called a "voider". More
As the monastaries closed, inns provided places for travellers to rest.
Before Henry VIII closed the monasteries, they provided a place where people could stay for a night and have a meal. After their closure, inns took over this role and inns, alehouses and taverns became far more popular. More
Inns and taverns were places where people could eat, socialise and hold celebrations.
Inns provided a place where people could hold celebrations, drink, relax, gossip, eat and be entertained. Taverns and alehouses also sold ale and simple food and both, sometimes, had a room where people could stay. More