Everyone in Tudor England ate bread and cheese – the only difference between classes was the quality of bread and cheese. The cheapest bread was called ‘Carter’s bread’; it was a mixture of rye and wheat. The middle classes (or prosperous tenants) ate ‘ravel’, also called ‘yeoman’s bread’ and made of wholemeal. The most expensive bread was called ‘marchet’ and made of white wheat flour. Aristocratic households ate marchet, particularly during banquets. Everyone drank beer (from the poorest peasant to the wealthiest monarch.) It was brewed without hops and was not particularly alcoholic. People drank beer liberally. Water, however, was considered unhealthy – and for good reason. Under Henry VII, French wines were imported in greater quantities – but only aristocrats drank them.
The poor and wealthy alike lived off the land. England was self-sufficient, able to feed its population without resorting to imports. (In good harvests, that is.) Most peasants had small bits of land, in villages and towns. They kept chickens, pigs, and perhaps a cow. Those with animals slaughtered them in November. The meat was smoked, dried, or salted – kept for meals in the cold months. Bacon was the most common meat of poor people. Smoked bacon and salted beef were most popular during the winter.
Of course, meat could not be eaten on Fridays; instead, fish – dried cod or slated herring, most likely – was eaten. It was not fresh since there was no efficient or speedy way to transport fresh foods. Vegetables were plentiful – particularly beans, peas, carrots, and onions. Fruits were available, too – apples, plums, pears, strawberries, and cherries…. But potatoes were not available then (Raleigh brought them to England in Elizabeth’s reign) and tomatoes were unknown. As you can see, diets were most interesting and varied in the warmer months but cold weather meant preserved meats and little else.
(Note: There were 2 great famines in Tudor England – mid-1550s during Mary I’s reign and mid-1590s.)
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Tudor England Food And Drink" https://englishhistory.net/tudor/tudor-england-food-drink/, February 24, 2015