Viking Foods 8 – Meals & Feasts by Rob Shackleford
In discussing Viking foods, it’s important to consider when foods were eaten.
Most Viking family meals were eaten in a common room of the longhouse. This meal was often either a stew served with bread or, in Iceland at least, skyr, a type of yoghurt, and cheese with bread. The Norse ate two meals a day: one, the dagveror (day meal) shortly after waking in the morning and the other, the nattveror (night meal), in the evening, roughly around 9:00 pm (21:00).
The Vikings had bowls and plates very similar to our own, but made more often from wood rather than pottery. Spoons were made from wood, horn or animal bone. They were often carved with delicate patterns of interlaced knotwork and the heads of fabulous beasts. Drink was taken in horns, similarly decorated and sometimes with metal tips and rims.
Everyone had a personal knife which was an all-purpose tool and, at the table, served as both knife and fork. The fork was unknown in Scandinavia during the Viking Age but a pointed stick was sometimes used for the same purpose. The family would gather at a table in the central room of the house and sit on benches. Most tables were of rough wood but wealthier families had crafted and polished wooden tables covered by a linen table cloth.
Aside from the daily meals, there were ritual feasts – such as at weddings and funerals or to seal a business contract – and the famous sumbl, the Viking drinking party. The sumbl involved far more drink than food, and, as with the meal in one’s home, was prepared and presented by women.
Often, a celebration meant a sacrificed horse, where the meat was spitted and roasted like a kebab. There was also roast lamb, salted fish and pork, goat and plenty of fresh bread. For dessert the Vikings ate fresh fruit and a little honey on buttered bread. Beer was drunk as well as mead, made from honey.
Feasts were often a show of power and influence, where a leader was measured by the generosity of his table. Foods at a feast might mean importing goods from far afield to include wine and foods never seen by the common folk.
Compared to today’s diets, the diet of almost any people of 1000 years in the past was very limited. Today we think nothing of eating foods from throughout the world, eaten out of season, and often prepared by some of the world’s finest cooks and chefs.
Many of our images of Vikings are highly glamorized, especially of feasts. There were no forks, horned helmets, or beautiful Viking women in warrior garb. But it makes for a terrific story.
Would you survive if you were sent to Viking times?
More links and Viking Recipes
Find out more
Viking Life by John Guy and Richard Hall (Ticktock, 1998)
Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age by John Haywood (Thames &Hudson, 2000)
Cultural Atlas of the Viking Age edited by Graham-Campbell et al (Andromeda, 1994)
Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings by John Haywood (Penguin, 1996). Detailed maps of Viking settlements in Scotland, Ireland, England, Iceland and Normandy.
Other Viking Blogs
|Vikings at Home|
About the author:
Hi, I’m Rob Shackleford. I am author of a number of novels, though so far only Traveller Inceptio and Traveller Probo have been officially published. As Traveller Inceptio looks at the fates of modern historical researchers sent to the early 11th Century Saxon world, Vikings do feature.
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