Anglo-Saxon Food

When the Romans invaded Britain, the Anglo-Saxons were not only influenced by religion, but by their culture as well. One of the main aspects of their culture that was highly influenced was their food.



Anglo-Saxon Religion



 When the Romans invaded Greece, they were first introduced to seafish, which they before had never consumed because they were mostly inland farmers. Once they invaded Britain, they were delighted with the varieties of fish that the Anglo-Saxon markets offered. Shellfish like oysters, whelks, mussels, etc. became popular as well and were thought to have been transported as far as Rome itself. Unfortunately, around the 5th century when the Romans began to withdraw, the fish craze also began to die down.

Most fishing was done by use of lines and hooks, as well as netting. With the invasion of the Romans, they were able to utilize better resources and made new barbed hooks out of bronze and make net-sinkers out of lead or cooked clay. Although cooking methods at this period in time are not often recorded, many archeologists assume that fish was spitted over large fires on green sticks, heated by hot stones, or made into various stews. The shellfish consumed was often eaten raw but could also be cooked inside of their shells.


Beef would have been considered the most preferred in Britain during the time of the Anglo-Saxons and the Roman invasion. Cattle were one of their most prized possessions and great care was taken to ensure their safety. Many fortifications were made in an effort to protect the cattle including cattle enclosures. Sheep and goats were also commonly found in Britain as well as pigs. Pork was essential in the diet of the people, including the Roman soldiers, as well as the lard. Under Roman rule, the people were taught to fatten the pigs with grain, providing them with more meat. The feeding of farm animals became increasingly popular as it brought about fleshier and bigger animals that had been consumed before. Farm animals were the most popular source of meat but some hunting was done with the help of trained hunting dogs that supplied them with some rabbit and deer meat.

Meat could be cooked over fire-spits or stewed in iron cauldrons, which hung by chains over the fire. Because Romans began to mass-produce iron cauldrons, even the lower class were able to purchase a small, round-bellied, iron cauldron to cook their food. This introduction of metal rather than clay became widespread due to its safety and sanitation. Clay pots would often overheat and break, and were not easy to wash. To help offset the flavors of the meat that sometimes became rancid with the climate, sauces and herbs were introduced to spice the food. The Romans brought most of these from the Mediterranean and were enjoyed mostly by the wealthier Anglo-Saxons.


Anglo-Saxon Religion

Anglo-Saxon Religion Vegetables and Spices:

The Roman style of cooking that began to sweep the country created a greater need for various spices to be cultivated. Spices like mint, thyme, dill, fennel, garlic, onion, hyssop, rosemary, and sage were planted in various gardens throughout Britain, and some began to grow wildly so that many wild herbs are still found in England today. Romans introduced a variety of green vegetables to the diet of the Anglo-Saxons like lettuce, beet, mallows, endive, and cabbage. Wild cabbage was believed to have been a food-staple to the Celtics who lived there before, but the Romans introduced different varieties of cabbage that had not been eaten before in Britain. They grew the beet and mallow in order to boil their leaves in pottages or to be eaten with a dressing and herbs. Other vegetables they had were carrots, parsnips, turnips, and radishes and were often fried or boiled.


A large part of the Anglo-Saxon diet came from cereal pottage made of oatmeal as well as barley. These grains were useful for making bread and pottage as well as supplying malt to brew. Their land also produced a great amount of rye. When the Romans came, they helped them separate the techniques of grinding and pounding the grains. Under the Romans, they were taught how to use the rotary quern as well the mortar and pestle for the crushing of herbs. When making bread, the rye would often produce a dense and dark type of bread, but it could be combined with varying types of wheat and barley to make it lighter. Barley was the main crop for the making of bread and beer.

Anglo-Saxon Religion 
Anglo-Saxon Religion

  Most of the fruits eaten by the Anglo-Saxons were wild, soft fruits like wild strawberries, raspberries, bilberries, blackberries, dewberries, and elderberries. Later the Romans brought peaches, apricots, figs, and almonds to add to their diet. They also introduced sweet apples, which were far different from the wild crabs that grew naturally. Ways of preserving the fruits were also introduced in order to provide nutrients during the winter months. Drying was common for apples, and fruits like pears and berries were sealed in earthenware jars with honey or wine.

Anglo-Saxon Religion  Drink:

Because of the Celtic influence, mead was a popular form of drink, made with wild fruits and herbs, and honey left to ferment. Wine was imported from the Romans after they invaded, and different types of alcoholic beverages were popular. Milk and water were the two non-alcoholic drinks throughout the land.