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Feeding an Army: How Medieval Chefs Kept Knights Satisfied

If you were a medieval chef and you had to cook a banquet for an army of hungry knights, what would you do? The foods that you provide not only have to be tasty to the knights’ palates and filling to their stomachs, but also capable of keeping them high in spirits and energy throughout the day. And your ingredients were much more limited than what a modern chef had at his disposal, especially if you were accompanying an army on the march.

Medieval chefs certainly didn’t have any access to protein powder or whey powder to provide their knights with an energy boost. They didn’t even have access to sugar – there was only honey for a sweetener, which was rare and expensive. What you might cook for your army of marching knights in heavy armor really depended on what your army found on the march. If your army was marching through an area with a lot of farms, you might have access to a lot of breads and cheeses, so you could make delicacies like cheese sandwiches or even french onion soup if you had onions available.

However, if your army was marching through a forest or if you were on a crusade, you would generally have to cook with whatever animals your knights could hunt up and shoot with arrows. This would generally mean deer and rabbits, so you would be making a lot of roasts and stews, and possibly also drying out some of it to make jerky. Believe it or not, jerky has been around for a very long time, and it isn’t always made with beef. Venison jerky – that is, jerky made from deer meat – was very popular, and also provided knights with a lot of energy for a long day wearing heavy armor.