Food and drink have a crucial role in human culture. They not only satisfy thirst, but they can also be used to treat certain health conditions. Moreover, they can help in preventing chronic diseases. So, studying the culture of food and drink in early modern Europe is a great way to understand the material culture of the period.
The diet of Europeans in the early modern period was characterized by the introduction of exotic foods from outside of Europe. These foods were largely consumed by elites during the period, although they gradually made their way into the mainstream diet as time went on.
The early modern period was also marked by the introduction of distilled alcohol. This beverage was initially planted in South Asia and later spread across Europe and the West Indies. By the 1800s, distilled alcohol was a commercial product and it was used to make wine and brandy.
Grain was the main source of nutrition for most people. It was also the predominant ingredient in most drinks. It was drunk as beer, ale, bread, gruel, and pasta.
In the north, where agriculture is much more difficult, food relies on meats, berries, and other hardy plants. During Lent, Catholics abstain from eating meat. However, there are some exceptions. For example, street urchins can get “bowls o’ brown” as a minor meat source.
As in other cultures, the early modern period saw the introduction of new technologies that influenced the industry of food. In particular, the introduction of the gas range and electric range enabled the cooking process to be more efficient. There were also the emergence of cooking schools and a growing professionalization of the food industry.
The wealthier lords and merchants had the resources to prepare extravagant feasts. They also had the luxury of using exotic ingredients and spices. Moreover, these foods were often mass produced. A major innovation was the distillation of wine, which was then taken up by apothecaries for medicinal purposes.
Food and drink were a part of daily life and played a key role in the cycle of the annual, monthly, and weekly lives. In some places, there was a strict control on what foods and beverages were available. Nevertheless, there were also regional and gender differences in the type of foods and drinks that were eaten.
A common form of food was gruel, which was prepared from a mixture of mashes and oats. In some parts of Europe, the use of cereals like oats, millet, and buckwheat was also widespread.
The study of food in the early modern period can give a good insight into the cultural values of different classes and the religions of the time. In some cases, foods and drinks were forbidden during religious celebrations. Also, food was a symbol of purity and status.
However, it is important to note that despite the wide variety of foods, the prevailing nutritional patterns of the time were similar to those of most of the world. Throughout the world, there are a number of different kinds of foods and drinks.