Viking Food

The day begins

Imagine a scene in North Yorkshire a thousand years ago. The autumn sun crawls lazily across the horizon, flooding a small coastal valley with the early morning light. Svensholm is a small Viking homestead, comprising a large hall and a few outbuildings. The longhouse has thick walls which keep it cool in summer and stop it freezing in winter. The family sleep in the main hall around the fire pit along with some of the farm stock. On the top of an outbuilding a cockerel crows rousing the farm to life. With little thought to the daily chores ahead the immediate care is to breakfast! No breakfast cereals, bagels or scrambled eggs for these farmers though.

Whilst Ingrid, the farmer’s wife, coaxes the embers of yesterday’s fire back to life, Sven the farmer helps himself to some of yesterday’s left-over stew. It has been left in an iron cauldron, rather like something you’d imagine Halloween witches to sit around. The stew itself also looks rather scary; a thin crust of fat has formed over a brown liquid which is made up of boiled lamb bones, beans, peas, carrots and turnips. Sven breaks off a hunk of bread to dip into the stew. A rather stale crusty flat loaf, this bread was baked last week.

The children of the household will spend the day helping their parents. Fortified with a breakfast of bread and buttermilk (similar to skimmed milk), Tostig will help his father in the fields. The remainder of the harvest has to be gathered in and a lamb needs to be slaughtered. Sven uses an iron sickle to cut the corn, whilst Tostig uses a wooden rake to gather the cut corn into sheaths. Later these will be threshed to release the grains of wheat, rye and barley.

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