Food and drink: Diet in Anglo-Saxon Times

January 24th, 2010

Fifteen centuries is a long time and the average diet of men and women can change a lot. What then was typical food and drinks for our ancestors who lived her around the 6th to 7th century and during the centuries following?

  • CerealsBarley, wheat, rye and oats were grown and made into bread and beer. A popular use was pottage: a stew of cereals, pulses and vegetables. This was called briw in Old English.
  • DrinksBeer which was made from malted barley was the main drink consumed. This was really a type of ale, meaning it did not contain hops (later centuries would classify beer as ale made with hops). Mead was also made but more rarely. In Old English ale was called alu or ealu.Wine was very rare and only available to very wealthy individuals.Milk was occasionally drunk but often used for cheese.
  • PulsesBeans and peas were commonly used in briw
  • VegetablesTypically used again in briw, these included leeks, onions, garlic, cabbage, turnips, beets, parsnips, carrots.  They did not include potatoes – a much later 16th century import.
  • HerbsGinger, coriander, pepper and other herbs and spices were known but were mainly used in medicines. 
  • FruitVery commonly used in diet although often dried or boiled and stored for later use, these included apples, pears, plums, cherries, rasberries, strawberries and blackberries. Nuts included hazelnuts.
  • Eggs were an easily available food which also included ducks and goose eggs as well as hens.
  • Meat and FishPretty much all of an animal would be consumed. Red meat was rarer in the diet; pork and chicken being much more common.  Game and fowl was eaten.  Shellfish such as oysters were much more a standard part of the diet than in our day where it is considered a luxury item. Eels and other fish were often eaten on fast days when meat was off the menu.

Read more: For those wishing to find our more about food eaten at this time period I refer you to Anglo-Saxon Food by Ann Hagen (published by Anglo-Saxon books)I mention a number of Anglo-Saxon dishes in  The Amber Treasure ( ) . In my next Blog I will look at some specific dishes popular at the time.

    The Story behind the amber treasure

    December 5th, 2009

    From The Amber Treasure:


    “I will take care of the body of my lord and you can carry the sword, story teller.For all good stories are about a sword.” 

    Cerdic is the nephew of a great warrior who died a hero of the Anglo-Saxon country of Deira.

    Growing up in a quiet village, he dreams of the glories of battle and of one day writing his name into the sagas.

    He experiences the true horrors of war, however, when his home is attacked, his sister kidnapped,his family betrayed and his uncle’s legendary sword stolen.


    Cerdic is thrown into the struggles that will determine the future of 6th century Britain and must show courageousleadership and overcome treachery, to save his kingdom, rescue his sister and return home with his uncle’s sword.


    The Amber Treasure is historical fiction set in Dark Age Britain in the chaotic, brutal years of the 6th Century

    I find this time period fascinating.The period of history following the departure of Romantroops from Britain in about the year 416 and lasting until the reign of Alfred the Greatalmost five hundred years later, represent the most poorly documented in the historyof Britain. Enormous changes overtook the Island. Large parts of the country passedfrom the domination of one race to a completely different one. Place names, history,culture and language were swept away. Invasions, battles and wanton destructionraged across the land as never before, or after.In this time, there would have beenheroes and villains. Legends would have arisen. Folk would have spoken with familiarityof battles and warlords, as we today talk of celebrities and sports teams. Amongst all this,normal people lived normal lives. People were born and died. They lived and loved,as we do today.Yet we know almost nothing about these people. That seems unfair to me- so I decided to write a fiction set in this time.

    Its about treachery and loyalty in dark age Northumbria.

    Hope you enjoy it.

     Find out more:

    For the paperback

    Pocket Version:

     US Trade Version:

    For e-book:

    (50% available for free download there)

     On Freado:

     Read it like a book on screen via book buzzr

    Secret Societies and Demons clash in the Great Fire of London 1666

    July 30th, 2009

     The Last Seal is a historical fantasy novel in which four mismatched Londoners brave the perils of the Great Fire of 1666 to prevent an even more terrible threat. They must each overcome weaknesses, temptation and guilt in order to gain the ability to destroy a demon buried under the city.

    Agents of the King are hot on the heels of four mismatched and unlikely heroes – the sole remaining member of the Praesidum, a young thief orphaned during the plagues, a cynical physician and son of a murdered Praesidum member, and finally and most vitally, a school boy.

    Suspected of being foreign spies, the four must overcome their own problems – fear of failure, self interest, a desire for revenge and guilt over a parent’s death – if they are to defeat the plans of the Liberati, protect the city and gain the means to destroy the demon.

    Also check out The Last Seal Lens on Squidoo 

    The Last Seal has a website

    July 20th, 2009

    You can read all about my new writing project The Last Seal on

    The Last Seal is a historical fantasy novel in which four mismatched Londoners brave the perils of the Great Fire of 1666 to prevent an even more terrible threat.  They must each overcome weaknesses, temptation and guilt in order to gain the ability to destroy a demon buried under the city.

    Pig sick of Swine Flu

    July 16th, 2009

    Over reation  
    When I arrived at my childminders this morning she anxiously opened the door and said she needed to explain that NHS direct had told her her son might have swine flu and so she was not sure if I’d want  my 6 year old to go there today.She was however puzzled because she had rung up NHS direct because the lad had an asthma attack and a slight (very slight temperature). At this point all hell broke loose and she was advised to get on to the GP (the out of hours service) and get Tamiflu. She was even told that no one in her house should leave the house to go and get the tablets and the should not have contact with anyone.By this morning when I arrived all sign of the fever had gone and her son was well and showing no indication of flu- yet she was uncertain if he should go to school or whether she should have other children in the house because of the mention of swine flu by nhs direct.Now what happened here is not isolated. Over the last 3 weeks I have come across over reactions in this way multiple times. The result is worry and panic and anxiety. What seems to be happening is that  either NHS direct are not following protocols OR they have ones that are so broad that anyone with a slight temperature gets dragged into the Swine Flu protocol and once down that path you are bound to be given Tamiflu.Our guidlines are clear. If you do not have a high fever (over 38.5) you dont have Swine Flu. If you do have  a temp you still need several other flu symptoms for it to be likely. Even then most cases (the VAST bulk) are mild and dont need anything other than usual flu treatment and a few days.

    My First Blog

    July 15th, 2009

    Well I guess it had to happen sooner or later. My first venture into Blogging