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Norse-food-art - 7/26/94


"What Did Vikings Eat?" by Gunnora Hallakarva.


NOTE: See also the files: fd-Norse-msg, N-drink-trad-art, mead-msg, fd-Iceland-msg, seafood-msg, fish-msg, fd-Celts-msg, beer-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that

I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some

messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium.

These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I  have done  a limited amount  of editing. Messages having to do  with

seperate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes

extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were

removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I

make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given  by the

individual authors.


Please  respect the time  and efforts of  those who have written  these

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Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THL Stefan li Rous

    mark.s.harris at motorola.com            stefan at florilegium.org



From: Gunnora.Hallakarva at f555.n387.z1.fidonet.org (Gunnora Hallakarva)

Date: 19 Jul 94 09:45:00 -0500

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Viking Answer Lady on "What Did Vikings Eat?"

Organization: Fidonet: Cygnus I.I.N./San Antonio, TX/HST+V32T+VFC/210-641-2063


[NOTE: The following is an article prepared for The Bear

Necessities, the newsletter of the barony of Bjornsborg, Ansteorra.

The Viking Answer Lady is Lady Gunnora Hallakarva, an

eighth-century Finn who will tell you more than you ever wanted to

know about pigs if you let her.  Her alter ego, Christie Ward, is

a historian interested in Iron Age Scandinavia (but still has a day

job as well).]


Dear Viking Answer Lady:

     Aside from meat and mead, what did Vikings eat?

     --- Just Adopted into A Viking Household & Wondering What to

     Expect at Mealtime


Gentle Reader:


As you would expect, the Vikings ate a wide variety of foods.

While Scandinavia is cold, many foods are available there, and what

was not obtainable via agriculture and husbandry was available by

trade with more temperate countries. The following is an

introduction.  I shall be compiling a list of period Viking recipes

soon, for your further edification.


Daily Meals - the Vikings customarily ate two meals each day. The

first was eaten in the morning, approximately two hours after the

day's work was started (7 A.M. to 8 A.M. or so), while the second

was consumed at the end of the day's labor (7 P.M. to 8 P.M. or

so). These times would vary seasonally, depending on the hours of



Types of Food - the foods listed here were definitely known to the

Vikings, as evidenced by mention in the literary sources, or

documented by archaeological finds (i.e., grave sites, etc.).

Additional foods were probably consumed as well, including but not

limited to wild herbs and fruits known to grow in Scandinavia,

additional game animals not listed below, and any foodstuffs that

may have been imported from other countries.


Protein - (domestic sources) cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses,

(hunting/gathering) caribou, bear, boar, elk, red deer, squirrel,

whale meat and blubber, seal, walrus, sea birds and their eggs,

rabbit, herring, cod, trout, salmon, "sausage" made by filling

cleaned intestines with a mixture of lard, blood and meat (Viking

bratwurst), hazelnuts. Preparation methods for meat included

broiling on a spit over an open fire, boiling in cauldrons, pit

roasting, preservation by drying, smoking, salting, and pickling

in either brine or whey. Preparation methods for fish could include

any of the above, and dried fish was eaten (as it still is today)

smeared with butter.


Fruit and Vegetables - angelica, mushrooms, leeks, onions, edible

seaweeds, peas, beans, turnips, moss, apples, crab apples, plums,

cherries, cranberries, elderberries, strawberries, lingonberries,

blackberries, blueberries. Sandwort and acorns were used sometimes

as a starvation food.


Dairy - milk was not usually consumed, but rather used to create

other dairy foods which could be stored for winter consumption,

such as butter, buttermilk, whey, skyr (a cottage-cheese like

dish), and cheese (which was usually heavily salted to help

preserve it).


Bread and Cereals - oats, rye and barley were cultivated, as was

wheat in the areas in which it would grow. Unleavened breads (now

available in your grocery store as "Wasa Bread") were made of rye,

barley and sometimes peas, cooked in large flat "wheels" with a

central hole which was used to store the wheels by threading them

on a pole. Porridge was made from whole grains (the Eddas give one

specific variety, made with oats and herring), and gruel was made

from cracked or ground grains, as well as leftover breads.


Other - the Vikings used several sorts of spices, including juniper

berries, cumin, mustard, horse radish, garlic, and exotic spices

obtained by trading. Alcoholic drinks were heartily consumed, beer

Abeing one way to preserve carbohydrate calories for winter

consumption, and consisted of beer, ale or mead, with fruit wines

being used for sacramental purposes late in the period, and grape

wine imported from the Rhine region by the wealthy. Honey was

cultivated in southern Scandinavia, and imported by those in

regions where bees cannot thrive.





I am currently preparing a follow-up to this answer that will include

recipes for Viking foods.


Anyone else have questions for the Viking Answer Lady? post them to me!



<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org