Jacobean life – Dining



The daily dining habits of the average Jacobean Londoner share many similarities with those of us living in the 21st Century.  Three meals a day for those with the means, and snacks in-between for the nibblers.  Breakfast was usually taken between 6 and 7am and consisted of bread, with butter if it could be afforded, and perhaps some cold cuts of meat or slices of cheese. Weak beer was served as a staple accompaniment, since the river water in London was unfit to drink, and rainwater also needed to be filtered.

The aristocracy settled down to a heavy lunch between 11am and noon, while the working classes ate a little later; similarly supper for the idle rich was usually served at about 6pm, while the rest might not eat their evening meal until 7 or 8pm. The main meal of the day was lunch, or dinner, as it was then called. For those who had their own cooks, this meal might run to several courses and include soup, stewed meat, pies, bacon, more roasted meat, fish, vegetables, all rounded off with fruit tarts and cheese. Wine was served with each course, and a midday meal might run to several hours. The working man had to content himself with a hastily-grabbed tavern meal, or one snatched at home. It would have included at least one hot dish, often a roast, or pie, or stew, accompanied by more bread and beer.

Supper was something of a rerun of breakfast; cold meat, bread, beer and cheese. The aristocracy might extend this with the inclusion of more fruit and sweet dishes, and fine wine.
Cutlery was still at the rudimentary stage – spoons and knives were in use, but forks were still something of a new-fangled invention. It was customary to go through a ritual hand-wash with other diners prior to sitting down. The head of the household took his place at the table, the children and servants sat at the opposite end, or even in a different room at a different table if space were not an issue. It was a widespread practise in many households to expect children and servants to stand throughout a meal, as can be seen from the woodcut. After Grace had been said, knives were used to spear whatever food looked appealing and convey it to the plate, then fingers took over in place of a fork. Once the meal was over, diners might push away their empty plates and light up a pipe – tobacco was available at 3 pence a pouch.
Sources as for Jacobean Food

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