Food and Drink
As with other aspects of medieval life, people's social and economic status determined the food they ate. Ironically, the diet of working commoners may actually have been healthier than that of the aristocracy, at least in terms of nutritional balance. The wealthy were able to indulge a taste for fine and rich foods with higher proportions of red meat, sugar, and fat, while the common people consumed more fiber and vegetables.
Bread was a staple food for all people, but aristocratic taste favored the whitest wheat bread possible (although it was less white than modern white bread--Wonder Bread might well have been considered the ultimate treat on the table of Edward III). The aristocratic diet also included a great deal of meat, principally beef, followed by pork and mutton, with game and poultry as the smallest component. Dairy and egg products were found in the aristocratic diet, but not particularly favored. Neither were vegetables, which mostly appeared as flavorings in the form of leeks, onions, garlic, or herbs. Sweets, including conserves and sugar candy, were also a feature of the aristocratic diet. The daily ration for a person living in an aristocratic household typically included 2 to 3 lbs. of wheat bread, 2 to 3 lbs. of meat or fish, and a gallon of ale.
A prosperous peasant might consume 2 to 3 lbs. of bread, 8 oz. of meat or fish, and 2 to 3 pints of ale per day. The bread was not likely to be fine white bread. Wheat was relatively expensive, so poorer people made use of rye, oats, barley, and even beans and peas. Meat was also expensive and was not necessarily a regular part of a commoner's diet. Those who could afford it ate the same sorts of meats as the aristocracy, although perhaps