This list is of foods that were generally unknown in the Middle Ages. Please be aware that turkey, the large drumstick of which is ubiquitous at the modern Renaissance Faire, is included here, as well as potatoes. Neither of these foods, so often erroneously associated with medieval feasts, should be served at any authentic medieval dinner, in addition to the rest of the modern or New World items mentioned here.
Foods To Never Use List
Allspice - a New World food item, also called Jamaican Pepper.
Bananas - known about, but still a foreign fruit and considered exotic. Their short shelf-life prohibited easy transportation to Europe. Sir John Mandeville (14th c.) writes of them in his Travels and refers to them as "long apples" & "apples of paradise."
Broccoli - although a variety of broccoli was known by the Romans, it was not introduced into France until the 1500's and not into England until the 1720's, making it a rather unknown vegetable during medieval times.
Chocolate - New World.
Cocoa - New World.
Coffee - did not reach Europe until after the Middle Ages, but was common in Arabia by the medieval period.
Indian Corn -our modern corn, the large cobs with yellow, white, or brown kernels.
Margarine - an invention of the modern food-chemistry industry.
Potatoes - despite their association with Ireland, potatoes originally came from South America.
Rhubarb - like the banana, possibly known about but never used.
Shortening - an invention of the modern food-chemistry industry.
Tea - did not reach Europe until after the Middle Ages.
Turkey - Turkey is a New World food that reached Asia Minor only after 1500 and did not come into general use in Europe until the mid 16th century. (Turkey is documented as being in London markets by the 1540's.) They are perfectly period for Tudor or Elizabethan feasts, but not for either the Middle Ages or most of the Renaissance. (The debate on when the Renaissance ended is still on going, but many historians agree that it was over in most of Europe by the early to mid 1500's.) Many medieval themed restaurants and Renaissance Fairs should be sternly admonished for serving turkey (and potatoes) as authentic food! The only instance in which turkey should be considered for a modern medieval dinner is as a replacement for peacock or swan, two large birds not readily available for the kitchen today and whose meat is not nearly as tender & moist as turkey.
There is also evidence to show that before 1540-50, the bird Europeans often called "turkey" was actually the West African Guinea Fowl; Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary says of the name turkey:
"confusion with the guinea fowl, supposed to be imported from Turkish territory (1555)"
One theory claims that Europeans took to the North American turkey faster than they did to other New World foods (such as the tomato) because of its resemblance, in both physical form and in its name, to the Guinea Fowl, frequently referred to as a "turkey."
Tomatoes - a member of the Nightshade family, it was considered inedible or poisonous.
Yams - New World.
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