Historical Perspective

Quick Reference for Historical Heathen Foods

Scholarly Works:

Anglo-Saxon Food and Drink: Production, Processing, Distribution, and Consumption

By Ann Hagen

The Cuisine of Sacrifice among the Greeks     Translated by Paula Wissing
With Essays by Jean-Louis Durand, Stella Georgoudi, François Hartog, and Jesper Svenbrod

Feasting the Dead: Food and Drink in Anglo-Saxon Burial Rituals

By Christina Lee

The Mead-Hall: The Feasting Tradition in Anglo-Saxon England

By Stephen Pollington


Translated works from the historical period:

Apicius: Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome

By Joseph Dammers Vehling

Anthimus. De Observatione Ciborum: On the Observance of Foods

Edited and Translated by Mark Grant

Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plant-Lore and Healing

By Stephen Pollington


Experimental Archeology , Approximations/Experiments with historical ingredients and cooking styles:

Prehistoric Cooking

By Jaqui Wood

Prehistoric Cookery: Recipes & History

By Jane M. Renfrew

Tastes of Anglo-Saxon England

By Mary Savelli

NOTE: Savelli’s work is much criticized for not being scholarly.  While it is not 100% accurate, it does attempt to explore the historical palate and is a gateway source for further research and experimentation.


Quick Ingredients Guide: Please refer to suggested reading materials for fully comprehensive lists.

Fresh meat, fowl, fish, crustaceans: beef, veal, mutton, lamb, chicken, pigeon, grouse, goose, duck, heron, partridge, swan, goat, rabbit, deer, squirrel, pork, boar, salmon, carp, trout, shrimp, clams, squid, seal , eel, shark, skate, squid, whale

Preserved Foods: bacon, cheese, salted meat, dried beans/veggies/fruits/herbs, salted fish, smoked meat, honey boiled meat/veggies/fruit, jerkied meat, brined/pickled meat/fish/fruit/veggies, rendered fat

Dairy: Milk, cream, fresh soft cheese, aged cheese, butter, curds, whey, eggs

Sweeteners: honey, wine, dried fruits, fresh fruit purees

Fruits/nuts: apple, pear, cherry, grape, hazel, walnut, chestnut, acorn, pine nuts, acorn, strawberry, plum

Herbs: parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary, basil, salt, garlic, chive, scallion, shallot, oregano, rosehip, dill, mint, mustard seed

Grains: wheat, oat, spelt, barley, flax seed, hops

Vegetables: cucumber, lettuce, spinach, onion, carrot, parsnip, beet, turnip, radish, celery, field peas, white beans, white lentils, sea weed, nettles, dandelion greens, mustard greens, kale, cabbage

Rare/Terribly Expensive Imports: pepper, oregano, olive oil, Mediterranean wine, figs, dates, cardamom, cinnamon, citrus, peach, apricot, sardines


Seasonal availability:

Spring: baby everything, mixes of preserved foods with fresh foods (beef stewed with fresh scallions and onions from the root cellar), immature greens and fresh dairy. “Starving Spring” brought rationing of the last of winter stores and playing the odds with how much of the new crops/livestock to consume immediately versus how much to leave to grow in the fields.

Summer: preserved dairy foods as milk harvested in the last of winter are now cured; semi soft cheeses, stored butter, mature greens, lots of seafood/fish, lots of foraged wild greens and herbs, small game, oven baked breads. Lots of fowl (domestic and wild). Frequent moves to summer fields meant portable food.

Autumn: fresh fruits, veggies, and nuts.  Towards the end of the season lots of fresh domesticated meats especially organ meats as the herds are culled for stock survival; beef and pork, roasted bones/bone rendered broths, animal fat condiments, oven baked breads, pulses.

Winter: large fresh game, preserved foods, butter, hard cheese, pulses, stews, broths, stored breads, griddle cake style bread, some oven baked breads.  Occasional fresh domestic meat is served for high feasts and to utilize stock that succumbs to the elements.  Towards the end of the winter lots of fresh dairy liquids as meals and ingredients in stews as birthing season begins and stock starts to give milk.

The most common meal at any season was grain based porridge with bits of bone, meat, and veggie thrown in.  The most common source of protein was a grain and legume combo with a dairy side. Barley and lentil stew with bread liberally spread with butter. Fresh meats were most often braised or boiled.

Sid Simpson

Sid Simpson is a special education teacher in Florida who dreams of living in a land of Autumn leaves and picturesque snow. She has spent more than 30 years exploring the Historical Heathen era through historically based recreation societies, living history activities, and experimental archaeology research in the U.S, and the U.K.. Ms. Simpson is focused on “domestic sciences” such as textile and clothing production, cooking, and the overall resource management and material culture of the Arch Heathens and how these things translate into modern living. A staunch Reconstructionist Heathen, she feels strongly about the development of Hearth Cult as a basis for ensuring overall congregational prosperity. And she really likes dogs.

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