The diets of people during the middle ages varied according to their means. The wealthy could afford to eat a wider range of foods such as expensive dried fruits, almonds, and spices from Asia. Despite that one poet actually thought that the poor should live on nettles, reeds, briars, and peashells, their diet was generally better than that. Dark, coarse breads made from a mixture of wheat with rye or oatmeal, garden vegetables, and meat, especially pork from their livestock.
During the winter the only available meat was heavily salted because of the common practice of slaughtering all but a few animals because of limited feed through the cold months. Cooks devised many clever methods of masking the taste by adding oatmeal, peas, beans, or breadcrumbs to the pot as well as various easily grown and dried spices and seasonings. Cows, goats, and sheep provided milk for dairy foods which were called “white meats”. Turnips, leeks, onions, and cabbages were known as “pot-herbs” and added as fillers, for they were not generally regarded as food in their own right. Fish and birds of all kinds as well as hares, mutton, beef, pork, venison, and wild boar rounded out the medieval meat menu. At various times and in different regions, there were restrictions on what the lower classes could and could not hunt or raise for meat.