The Vikings/Who were the Vikings?/Everyday life/Running a household in the Viking era/Food


Background information and technical details

We don't know exactly which meals were prepared during the Viking era; but we know a lot about the raw material they used and what type of utensils were used during the preparation of the food. Many utensils; pots, knives and the like have been preserved from that time; and on closer analysis of clay pots, shards of pottery, ashes from hearths and layers of earth in the houses it is possible to find the remains of the food and supplies they had. In addition some of the finds of human remains in bogs have been so well preserved that their stomachs and intestines could be examined and in this way determine what their last meal consisted of. We also know, to a degree, what plants and wild animals there were in Denmark during the Viking era, and we can figure that most of these were a part of the diet, as long as one could get hold of it.

Raw materials

The most important of cultivated crops was grain. Barley, wheat, rye and buckwheat were amongst the cultivated crops. The Viking era's grains didn't look just like they do today, there was more straw and less kernel then.

Grains grew well then as now here in Denmark and since it is a food that makes an excellent winter supply it easy to guess that the Vikings used grain/flour in most of their meals - either as bread and porridge or as an addition to soups and meats.

Vegetable gardens were to be found also. One could grow peas, horse beans, onions, angelica, hops, parsnips and carrots. Eggs, milk, meats and fatty stuffs for everyday food preparation were obtained from the livestock, which was similar to today, though they were a bit smaller then. Meat from livestock was not a daily part of the diet then, so fish, game and birds eggs were a welcome change of pace to the day in day out courses of porridge.

During the Viking era a large part of the country was covered by oak trees or thickets, afterwards with more and more beech mixed in. This made it a matter of course to gather acorns and bog for food preparation. Seeds, nuts and berries from other trees and bushes were also gathered for the household. After a long winter with dried and stored food one probably longed for fresh vegetables, so one wonders if new leaves weren't on the menu? In the fields and meadows it is possible to gather roots fresh chutes, and spires. If one is familiar with the various characteristics of the plants it is possible to a vitamin rich addition to the diet; but to what degree the Vikings exploited this possibility, we don't know.

From the book  I LÆRE SOM VIKING   by Trine Theut,. Illustrations by the author.
Published in 1994 by Trine Theut and OP-Forlag, Aps, Denmark.  ISBN 87-7794-248-5

English version by Steven Mohn

- 14. august 2004 -