When we think about the Middle Ages then we usually imagine knights in full armor, the crusades, and castles. However, the life of normal people but also the daily routines of knights outside of war are often overlooked.
In the following, I would like to present the typical daily routine of both medieval peasants and knights while answering the questions of at what time and how often people ate in the Middle Ages.
Eating two meals per day, one in the Late Morning between 10-11 a.m and the other one between 4-6 p.m. was normal during the Middle Ages although one additional snack was eaten depending on the individual hunger. Peasants would not interrupt their day during the most labor-intensive times of the year to eat but would rather postpone their second meal to after nightfall.
Let`s find out more!
At what time and how often did people in the Middle Ages eat?
Generally, the question of when and how often people in the Middle Ages ate is hard to answer since it obviously depends on the individual. However, some things can be said and that seemed to have been pretty common.
Eating two meals per day, one in the Late Morning between 10-11 and the other one in the afternoon between 16-18 o Clock was pretty normal during the Middle Ages although one additional snack was eaten depending on the situation and hunger.
It seems likely that peasants would not stop their day during the most labor-intensive times of the year to eat but would rather postpone the second meal to after nightfall.
The reason for that can be found in the necessity to use as much of the day as possible during the labor-intensive times of the year for example the harvest. Interrupting the day to have a meal would have costed too much precious daylight. While people in the Middle Ages had several ways of illuminating their homes, more on that here, they could not produce the light necessary to work the fields at the night.
Do you want to find out more about what a medieval peasant would eat on a normal day? Then you might enjoy my article here.
The habit of eating two meals and a snack per day would slowly change during the Late Middle Ages.
In the Late Middle Ages lunch would turn into the main meal for both Noblemen and patricians of the cities while breakfast was skipped in favor of Early Mass. In the Renaissance and under the influence of the French court ceremony the upper classes all over Europe would pick up the tradition of eating 4 meals, a breakfast, a second breakfast, lunch, and dinner between 25 and 18 o’clock.
That switch to 4 meals made it necessary to adapt the daily routines of noblemen and the upper class. However, that was not the case during most of the Middle Ages.
For most of the Middle Ages and especially for peasants the daily routine was not determined by the meals but by the work that had to be done.
And that brings us to the daily routine of both medieval peasants and noblemen.
The daily routine of medieval peasants and noblemen
As mentioned, it does not seem like medieval peasants or noblemen started their day with a large breakfast.
Although peasants would eat two meals and an additional snack per day the time when these meals were eaten depended on how they could be fitted into the work that had to be done.
So while the first meal was usually eaten between 10 and 11 o Clock and the second meal was eaten between 16-18 o clock that was not set in stone but was adjusted to the circumstances. That also goes for the snack that was eaten depending on individual hunger.
But not only peasants did not start the day with a hearty breakfast. There is actually a report about the daily routine of city councilors of the Imperial city of Frankfurt and when they ate their meals.
In the Late Middle Ages, the city councilors of the Imperial city of Frankfurt started their day at 6 AM but would only eat two meals, one between 10-11 o Clock and the other one between 16-18 o Clock. An additional snack was served depending on the individual hunger.
So there we have the rough daily routine of the late medieval city councilors of Frankfurt. I think it is pretty safe to assume that they, contrary to the peasants who had to align their meals with the weather and the work they had to do, were usually able to eat their meals at these mentioned times.
So in that case the meals can be used for the subdivision of the daily routine of a late medieval patrician.
I hope you enjoyed our trip into the Middle Ages. Should you not have enough of the Middle Ages yet then I would like to recommend you my article here where I talk about the myth of medieval swords not being sharp, why that myth is not true for the most parts, and how that myth developed in the first place.
Take care of yourself because you deserve it. You really do.
Until next time
Ernst Schubert: Essen und Trinken im Mittelalter (Darmstadt 2006).