When we think of the Medieval era, we usually think of feasts and banquets, and it’s true that those who were wealthy did enjoy some rather expansive and interesting meal options – the banquets that kinds enjoyed during the Middle Ages were extensive, but rather than eating huge quantities of food, kings would look to sample exotic foods and new flavors.
It was considered good etiquette to try a wide range of different foods, and thanks to the Crusades there were a lot of options to choose from, with spices from far away lands helping to add a touch of color and variety to an otherwise boring menu. Exotic colors and unusual flavorings were considered desirable.
The standard fare of the day included oats, fish, rye, barley, sheep, milk and ale. That is what peasants would live on, and the more well-off would follow a similar diet, but they would also enjoy pigeon, sturgeon, finer ales, a wider variety of fish, and a nicer selection of dishes in general – they would have more pies, soups and pastries, and they would get to choose between multiple selections of dishes at each meal, instead of having just one meal prepared at a time. They would often waste food (or leave food untouched, and their serving staff would partake of it).
Gluttony was frowned upon, even by the ruling classes, but they did enjoy the indulgence of trying a lot of different foods. They had the luxury of being able to sample foods from a range of different sources, and since they did not have to worry about “feast and famine”, or supplies running low in the winter, they could enjoy food in a way that the peasant classes could not – there was no need to think of food as a tool for survival.