Renaissance FOODS

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Renaissance foods were dishes popular from the Middle Ages and into modern times. With the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus, new foods and recipes were brought to Europe. Discover what people ate during the Renaissance below.

Renaissance Market

Feasts were always popular during special occasions such as weddings, holidays or saints days. Food were used in elaborate centrepieces especially at the tables of the nobility!

Certain foods like the potato and corn revolutionized European farming. The tomato from the New World was viewed with 'suspicion' and was not eaten on a regular basis for almost 200 years. In the 1520's Cortez discovered the 'Indian Chicken' and it was soon a popular favourite in Europe...we know it as the turkey!

Good Renaissance Table Manners
Forks did not become fashionable until the 1600s. They were first seen in Italy during a visit by a Byzantine princess to Venice. Forks were frowned on by the Church.
Both rich and poor in Renaissance Italy ate polenta, risotto, and pastas.
The rich began to eat their food on plates made of wood then metal and later fine porcelain. The poor still mainly used hard bread as a trencher for their foods.
Like other Medieval Europeans, Italian people still shared trenchers and threw food to the floors for the dogs.

Italians were famous for their use of poison at the dinner table. Countless murders have been committed in the disguise of fine cuisine. They seem to have made a fine art out of it. Arsenic was the favourite. Odourless, colourless, tasteless, and cumulative (could accumulate in the body to kill after a period of time), it was virtually undetectable until the Marsh Test. Its symptoms mimicked gastroenteritis. It was used so often that it is called The Liquid of Succession, as it was often used by heirs to lessen their wait time on their inheritance.

Our protagonists, the Borgias, were rumoured to be in the possession of a special poison called La Cantarella, which was probably a blend of arsenic, that was particularly lethal and used to kill their political rivals. Although this rumour has never been proven, it is a testament to the ruthlessness of political intrigue.

Poison was not only administered at the dinner table. They could be hidden in letters and breathed in, or seeped in through the skin. Caterina Sforza was accused of sending plague-contaminated letters to Pope Alexander VI.

Renaissance foods were prepared to please both the eye and the stomach!

Soups and broths
soupe doree
Several were served at the same time. Soups were rich and very expensive. Soups were luxuries. Broths were a favourite of King Francis IFrance of and the French Court. The French loved soup best and they claim to be the inventors of over 70 soups.
Roasts Most common sirloin of beef roast. They would boil the 'strong meats' and then baste with orange juice, rose water, sugar and powdered spices also they broiled roasts.
The custom of eating salads after the roasts were already established in the 15th century. Salads contained several mixtures like today's favourite salad toppings and then toppings like the crests, liver and brains of poultry.
After the salad course fish was served sometimes fried and dishes of eggs were usually served.
Cheese The French cheeses were the favourites in the 1500's. Parmesan became the fashion in France after
Charles VIII returned from his expedition in Naples.
semolina, vermicilli and macaroni
Introduced to France after the expedition of Charles VIII. Pastas were called Italian dishes because they came from Italy.
The Latin Torta
Tarts, veggie pies and meat pies were favourites in Europe. In Paris many different types of tarts and pastries were created/invented.
Side Dishes Mainly pastries, tarts and meat pies, side dishes were considered to add to the luxury of renaissance food.
Seasonings Verjuice or vinegar formed the essential base for sauces it was originally the juice of sorrel. Vinegar was used for pickling veggies and fruits. In many countries the salt tax was so high it made salt almost as dear as the hard to obtain Indian spices.
Spices Europeans now enjoyed Asian and Eastern spices like pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Examples of foods found at one Renaissance Wedding Feast food list:

First Course Second Course Dessert Course
salads of various kinds roast capon jam tart
mutton broth venison broth apple tart
chickens with spinach cold saille orange salad clove apple
pigeons a la Tremoulette roast quail fresh fruit
roast joints of mutton roast hams, crousets ,pates pears in mead
small pastries with hot sauce roast swan gohier waffles
breast of veal olives apple jelly
sweetened mustard pate of meaux cheese
roast roebuck Boulogne sausages cream flan

Popular Renaissance dishes and foods Favourite foods grown during the Renaissance Foods new to the Renaissance
Large game birds like swans, peacocks and cranes Root veggies such as carrots, parsnips and caraway Corn, tomatoes,
red peppers, potatoes and lima beans
Small game birds such as pheasant and heron Salad veggies like iceberg lettuce, green beans, cranberries Turkey
It was a popular custom to serve pork alongside chestnuts Only at the tables of royalty and the wealthy could you find asparagus Coffee, chocolate and tea came from South America
The 'fruit course' was a favourite They had their own blend of Crisco/shortening New crops of sugarcane in the Americas made sugar more affordable for all classes

They could not believe it was butter with their own kind of
Allspice a New World food item also called Jamaican Pepper

Vanilla beans, chilli peppers and green peppers Kiwi fruit

Bananas and kiwi fruit they knew existed and considered exotic fruits Yams from the new World

Foods that were believed harmful Reasons Why
Raw fruit Doctors believed it was poisonous
Tomato Was viewed with fear and suspicion

Cooking Words Meaning
acorde blend
abouyn on top
adres arrange for serving
bokenade stew or potage
fayre clean, nice, fairly large, pretty, fresh,moderate sized
paynemayn brede bread of the manor, the finest white bread, lordly bread
stere stir
boylenge boiling
sklyse type of spoon
wessel vessel
saundres sandalwood spice
tempre mix, season
boyste boxlike container
strawe strew, sprinkle, scatter
clowes cloves

Did you know? ...

Potatoes were brought to Europe in the 1500s but the potato did not become the staple crop in Ireland until the 1600s! You can view Renaissance recipes online!
In lower and middle class homes, meats were not usually served every day. For special occasions meats were served in abundance to display the generosity of the host. Renaissance meat dishes recipes
Meats Meats were served extremely fresh or salted. The spicing of many Renaissance meats was usually to mask the heavy salting of meats.
Breads Breads were a staple for lower and middle class households. Usually breads made of cheaper grains such as rye and barley.
Game Only the noble and wealthy class were allowed to keep a rabbit warren and to hunt game.

The food of the Middle Ages was very different from the food of today. During the Middle Ages in North Europe, the mainly used cattle and sheep for food. In South Europe, they also had fruits, vegetables, and herbs for food. They used olive oil rather than butter.

A banquet was sometimes made up of 6 courses. It provided food for everyone, not just the rich and famous. Rule were laid down for how people ate, their table manners and where they sat. They used spoons and knifes for eating. They also used trenchers, which were things like plates except they were pieces of hard bread that would soak up the blood and liquids from the chicken, turkey and other meats. A banquet was made up of many things, I will show you some of those things in the headings that follow.

Food was preserved in a number of ways. One way was that, meats and fishes were smoked or dried. Another way of preserving was that fruits and vegetables were pickled. Meat for the winter was salted in huge wooden vats. Sometimes meat and fruit were stored together in barrels. The warmest place in the kitchen was the blazing hearth. A hearth was a huge fireplace. Food was often disguised with spices to hide the taste of rotten meat! The kitchen was a very lively place.

Sometimes castles kept honey bees. Honey was used to sweeten foods and drinks. Sometimes water was channeled straight to the kitchen. Larger castles had their own fishponds, orchards, and vineyards.

In conclusion, I think the people of the middle ages ate a little worse than we do today. Though, they did have virtually the same silverware as we do and the same idea for today's modern plate.

Currant Cake
A singular recipe for making a Cake. Take halfe a peck of flower, two pound of Butter, mingle it with the flower, three Nutmegs, & a little Mace, Cinamon, Ginger, halfe a pound of Sugar, leave some out to strew on the top, mingle these well with the flower and Butter, five pound of Currans well washed, and pickt, and dryed in a warm Cloth, a wine pint of Ale yeast, six Eggs, leave out the whites, a quart of Cream boyled and almost cold againe: work it well together and let it be very lith, lay it in a warm Cloth, and let it lye half an hour against the fire. Then make it up with the white of an Egg, a little Butter, Rosewater and Sugar; Ice it over and put it into the Oven, and let it stand one whole hour and a half.

Recipe Name Chicken stewed with beef
Schyconys with the Bruesse
England15th century

SOURCE: Harleian MS. 279 | CLASS: Authentic DESCRIPTION: Chicken stewed with beef ORIGINAL RECEIPT: .Cxliiij. Schyconys with the bruesse. Take halfe a dosyn Chykonys, & putte hem in-to a potte; þen putte þer-to a gode gobet of freysshe Beef, & lat hem boyle wyl; putte þer-to Percely, Sawge leuys, Saurey, noyt to smal hakkyd; putte þer-to Safroun y-now; þen kytte þin Brewes, & skalde hem with þe same broþe; Salt it wyl. - Austin, Thomas. Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books. Harleian MS. 279 & Harl. MS. 4016, with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1429, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS 55. London: for The Early English Text Society by N. Trübner & Co., 1888. GODE COOKERY TRANSLATION: Stewed Chicken. Take one half dozen chickens, & put them into a pot; then add a good piece of fresh beef, and let them boil well; add parsley, sage leaves, savory, not too small chopped; add saffron; then cut toast into pieces, & scald them with the broth; salt it well. MODERN RECIPE:
  • 1 chicken, in pieces
  • 2 lbs beef roast, cut in large pieces
  • 1 tbs. parsley
  • 1 tsp. each sage & savory
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • pinch saffron (or few drops yellow/orange food coloring)
  • 4 pieces of toasted bread, cut in thin strips or triangles
Cover chicken & beef with water in a large pot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, stir in spices, and allow to slowly cook until the chicken is tender. Place the bread pieces on serving platter; pour a little of the broth over the bread, then place chicken pieces on top. Saffron, the stigmas of a certain type of crocus, was used extensively in Medieval cooking primarily for coloring, and was prized for the shade of orangish-yellow it imparted to food. Saffron today is very expensive, and since in small amounts it adds no discernible flavor in cooking, a yellow or orange food dye is a financially-wise substitute.

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