In Stuart times, food took up to four-fifths of an ordinary family's budget.
Despite ways of treating food, such as salting meat and fish, the diet of the poor remained rather basic. The diet was based on hunks of bread, coarse hard cheese, meat if it could be afforded, and fish. Pottage continued to be part of the staple diet. Ale was consumed in vast quantities. More
Most food was still boiled or cooked over open fires.
Breakfast was taken shortly after rising and was a relatively light meal.
For the poor, this would have been of coarse bread; for the rich, there was probably a selection of cold meats, bread and butter and cakes, served with tea, coffee and, later in the period, chocolate. More
The seventeenth century dinner was taken at midday.
Dinner prepared in a rich household probably contained two, or at most, three courses - but they were very large and varied. In a poorer household, one course would have been served along with bread and ale. More
Supper was taken in the early evening.
This was only a single course, but in a wealthy household it would be made up of numerous dishes, both savoury and sweet. More
On special occasions, huge meals (or banquets) were served.
The Christmas menu, for instance, sometimes included capons, hens, turkeys, geese and ducks. The most impressive meat dish of all was the boar's head, which had an apple or lemon in its mouth. It was decorated with holly, ivy and rosemary and carried ceremoniously into the dining hall. Later, in Cromwell's time, such festivities were banned, More
In Stuart times salt, sugar, currants, raisins, dates, figs and apricots were all called spices.
These were very important, being used to flavour food but also for medicines and perfumes. More
Merchants dealing in spices made huge profits.
Some became as wealthy as noblemen, and bought country mansions and estates. Even an ordinary sailor, who may have returned from a five-year journey around the Spice Islands, could sell his small sackful of nutmegs to give him a profit that could set him up for life. More
Sugar colonies were established in the Caribbean.
From the 1640s, the English, along with the Dutch and French, began establishing sugar colonies in the Caribbean islands. As the century progressed, hundreds of thousands of Africans were forcibly shipped from their homelands to work as slaves on the European farmers' plantations, in the West Indies and South America. More
Sugar became very popular in food and drink.
Cane sugar farming was so profitable that the plantation owners referred to sugar as 'white gold'. The rich were becoming used to the flavour of white sugar crystals in their tea and coffee, and bought silver sugar spoons, boxes, sieves and tongs. More
The Stuart period saw completely new foods appearing on the table.
Fruits such as bananas and pineapples came in from Africa and Asia and tomatoes were introduced - although these were regarded as poisonous for many years. More
In the 1650s, coffee became widely drunk in England for the first time.
Coffee was imported from the East. So popular did this drink become that, in the later 17th century, many "coffee houses" sprung up in the towns. By 1675, there were over 3,000 coffee houses in England. More
Tea also became popular in England in the later 17th century.
Tea was discovered by the Chinese in ancient times, but only reached Europe in the 17th century. It was made popular by Catherine of Braganza, the wife of King Charles II. More
Water carriers continued to sell water in the towns but beer or ale was the normal drink.
London had 4000 water sellers, but most people drank beer as their normal drink, as the water sold could not be trusted to be clean. More
Wine was drunk by the rich.
Wine had to be imported and was therefore expensive. Other new drinks included rum, gin and champagne. Brandy and whisky were also popular, having come to England in the previous century. More
In the late 17th century, the rich began eating ice cream.
Many rich people built special underground chambers in the grounds of their houses, for preserving ice during the summer. More
At the beginning of the Stuart period, famine remained a hazard.
Famine was particuarly a problem in remote country areas. About one harvest in six failed. Shortages often led to rioting and looting. As the 17th century progressed, and agricultural techniques improved, things got better. More
During the Stuart period, methods of agriculture greatly improved in England.
London's demand for constant supplies of fruit, vegetables, milk, butter, eggs and meat created a need for better farming methods. More
Game was abundant and flavoured with dried herbs and spices.
Forks became available for eating and pewter plates were now common.
In the early 17th century, people began eating with forks for the first time. This habit started with the rich, but soon became widespread amongst the rest of society. The use of pewter for plates was widespread and replaced wood in many households. More
Dining tables and furniture were still heavy and hard-wearing.
People sat along extended stools or benches either side of a table to eat; only the rich had individual chairs. There were trunks and cupboards in which to store food and cooking equipment. Table manners also improved as more people became wealthier and better educated. More