pike, and tench were often eaten by the lower
classes. Trout was held in great estimation. Mention has also been made
of the blay, shad, roach, and
gudgeon, but, above all, the carp, which was supposed to be a native of
Southern Europe, and which must have been naturalised at a much later
period in the northern waters.
Medieval Sea Fish
The most ancient documents bear witness that the natives of the
sea-coasts of Europe, and particularly of the Mediterranean, fed on the
same fish as at present: there were, however, a few other sea-fish,
which were also used for food, but which have since been abandoned. The porpoise, and even the whale, which
was salted, was believed to have furnished
all the markets of Europe. The whale, which was sent from the northern
seas in enormous slices, was only eaten by the lower orders, for,
according to a writer of the sixteenth century, "were it cooked even for
twenty-four hours it would still be very hard and indigestible."
Medieval Fish Trade
The trade in salted sea-fish only began in the
12th century. Herrings
became a necessary food during Lent.
All sea-fish were comprised under three names, the fresh, the salted,
and the smoked. Besides salt and fresh herrings, an enormous amount of
salted mackerel were eaten. Other sea fish included flat-fish, gurnets, skate, fresh and salted
whiting and codfish.
Conger eels were eaten but at a later period the conger was not eaten from its
being supposed to produce the plague. The turbot, John-dory, skate and
sole, which were very dear, were reserved for the rich. A great quantity of the small sea crayfish were
brought into market. Freshwater crayfish were not much esteemed in the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, excepting for their eggs, which were
prepared with spice.
The inhabitants of the coast ate various kinds of
oysters, crab, cockles and mussels.
Middle Ages Food -
The following fish were available during the Medieval era, even
though many were looked upon with sheer distain, especially by the Upper
Classes. The following list of fish were available during the Medieval times of the Middle Ages: