Their everyday diet included meat – all sorts of meat (though, usually, pork), and plenty of fish, particularly herring.
As they spent much time at sea, fish was available fresh from the sea, offering a healthy meal easily prepared, even in limited conditions. However, fish was often prepared in other ways – dried, smoked, pickled, or salted.
The meat was usually boiled; the day's main meal usually consisted of boiled meat and vegetable stew, called skause, which offered rich and hearty warm comfort food.
A common staple - meat and vegetable stew
Skause was eaten with bread made of all sorts of grains. Vikings sometimes used soured milk and buttermilk as an ingredient to prepare their bread, which was a sort of a simple flatbread made of rye, oat, and barley. These pieces of bread were usually baked on a flat stone and served with skause.
Dairy products were also popular among Vikings – milk, whey, and buttermilk, but also cheese, butter, curd, and skyr, a fresh sour milk cheese consumed as yogurt, which has recently gained international attention because of being a high-protein, low-fat product, offering a high nutritional value.
Fruit and vegetables were used more in their wild form, although Vikings cultivated some – for example, cabbage, onions, beans, and peas, late in summer harvested by women and children. Berries, wild apples, and other wild fruit were also part of the meal.
Another detail that gave variety and additional flavor to the food was a wide range of herbs and spices – coriander, cumin, and mustard, to name a few. Spices like salt and pepper were available to all Vikings, but those more exotic ones were imported and used by those of a wealthier status.
Boiled meat and vegetable stews were very popular among Vikings. Illustration: 🇮🇳Saif Ali - Unsplash
Popular grains and alcohol
Barley, rye, and oat were the most popular grains used for making both food and drinks; barley was mostly used for brewing beer, with some hops for improving flavor. Beer was consumed on a daily basis by Vikings of all walks of life.
Vikings brewed their own alcoholic drinks – again, the daily struggles with nature required additional warmth that beer, wine, and the famous mead can offer. Mead is a fermented alcoholic drink made from honey and was usually served on special occasions.
Mead definitely deserves special mention as it is a drink that, according to some sources, was a drink of the Viking royalty. However, all levels of society enjoyed the rich sweetness and strength it gave them for the long days ahead.
Yes, you guessed it - Vikings brewed their own alcoholic drinks. Illustration: Lutz Wernitz / Unsplash
Drinking horns and feasts
Also, one of the common mental pictures people have in their minds is Vikings drinking mead from horns, and this is true to an extent – but not completely.
Horns found throughout Scandinavia prove this to be true – most of them were decorated with either gold or silver details, indicating a special purpose they were used for.
Honey wasn't used just as an ingredient for preparing the golden mead; it was also used as a very common and very basic sort of dessert, in combination with either dried or fresh fruit or nuts. Honey was also the most common sweetener used in daily cuisine.
Speaking of special occasions – Vikings did enjoy having feasts to celebrate special days. The food and drinks served during such feasts generally didn't differ much from the food served and eaten on a daily basis.
However, a larger variety of dishes was served, accompanied by a wider range of alcoholic drinks, such as beer, ale, wine, and the inevitable mead, to indicate that the occasion was indeed special.
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