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Thor’s Day Alert #9: A Viking Feast

Happy Thor’s Day, everybody!

And if you live in America, Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your day is filled with quality feasting and fellowship! Following is an example of how Vikings likely feasted, borrowed from Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga and used here:

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The Eddic poem Rigsthula deals with the Norse god Rig or Heimdall who visited three different homes. In the first one, a thrall’s [slave’s] home, he was served a coarse loaf, heavy and thick, stuffed with bran, and a bowl of soup. In the second home, a farmer’s wife served him a dish of stewed veal. (Unfortunately, the lines telling about the farmer’s bread are lost.) In the earl’s home, the table was laid with a linen tablecloth, and thin loaves of white grain were placed on it. He was served wine with the meal of roasted birds and pork.

Bread has been found in quite a few Swedish graves, and it is sometimes preserved when burned. Loaves vary in size and content, but barley was the most common ingredient, often mixed with other grains, pea flour, or linseed. Most breads were thin and many were unleavened, while others were leavened with yeast. The circular iron frying pans found at many sites were probably used for bread making.

The daily porridge was probably just as common as daily bread. Archaelogical remains of soups and stews have been analyzed and have been found to contain flour and grits mixed with animal ingredients and vegetables. These dishes — in a variety of recipes — changed little down to our own time. The same goes for sausages, which are well documented in the medieval cities. Cooking pots of soapstone or iron were in common use, but cooking in pits filled with hot stones was not completely outmoded. Meat and fish would be wrapped in large green leaves, placed in the pit, and covered by sod and earth. Roasting spits indicate still another way of preparing meat and fish.

Several herbs and spices were known. The Oseberg grave contained seeds of cumin, mustard, and horseradish; of these, at least mustard was a rare import. Honey was the only sweetening agent known. Beekeeping is well attested in the medieval period, but it is uncertain whether this was practiced by the Vikings, or if honey for making mead was imported. Mead — whose basic ingredient is honey — and beer, made from malted barley and hops, were highly apreciated alcoholic drinks and were made at home. Wealthier families also were able to indulge in wine imported from the Rhine, judging from fragments of containers of German stoneware.

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Thanks for stopping by. See ya next week!


2 responses

  1. Adrian

    Ah the food of the dark ages!

    The Irish had very specific rules about who got what portion of a cow/goat/whatever. I don’t know how well they adhered to them, but they had rules like the king got the briskett, his champion got some other very specific piece, the queen got another.

    I also recall that one of their special dishes was to take a cow trachea and stuff it with minced spiced meat and cook it up over the coals! And, for some reason, badger was a dish that the ladies liked. I can’t imagiane how bad badger probably tasted.

    They also tended to share cups a lot. Turns out those big drinking horns were kind of rare and so you usually shared with the person next to you. Ettiquete was that you’d take a drink and then wipe the rim (probably with the table cloth) before setting it back on the table.

    November 29, 2008 at 5:46 pm

  2. davidfarney

    Fascinating. You’ve really got my appetite going now! I think I’ll go skunk-hunting later — if the ladies like badger, they’ll LOVE polecat.

    Your comment solves the mystery of why Mom always served my bowl of chicken soup with that chicken-ass-thing in it. Apparently I was pretty low on the family hierarchy!

    All smart-assedness aside, this builds on our conversation from the other day: working for a living (and having my own cup) certainly beats hunting for a living or groveling for the king in hopes of getting a decent piece of cow . . .

    November 30, 2008 at 11:06 am

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