Point of view: You're a peasant during the Medieval Age and are absolutely starving. There's nothing more you'd love than a good steak but, unfortunately, all you have is... vegetables. For dinner, it's barley, again, for the fifth time that week, in practically any form it could be obtained in. As carts full of freshly-caught poultry go rolling by you on the street, you're reminded of what remains hidden behind large castle doors, where all of that meat will inevitably end up on a table set for a minimum of 20 nobles and lords. Alas, you stop staring and continue to rake hay into the horse stalls.
And, as an alternate point of view: You're now an important noble, ranking high in class among those which you pass on the streets as you make your way to the castle doors that have become somewhat of a second home. As you approach, you pass a lowly peasant who is staring at you for some unknown reason. You brush the notation aside and start wondering what will be served for dinner instead. Will it be roasted peacock once again, or perhaps a true treat, suckling pig? Either way, you can be sure there will be not a single vegetable in attendance, but there will be plenty of cheese to choose from.
Food During The Medieval Era Was Far Healthier Than It Is Today
It often comes as a surprise when people learn that the food served during the Medieval Ages was considered to be far healthier than much of the food served today. The reason for this comes down to many things, but the lack of process sugars and additives accounts for much of it. During these times, food was simple and cooked in a way that allowed it to be kept for months (salted and aged) or allowed it to be eaten right away (freshly roasted or boiled). More than half of the ingredients on the labels of processed foods today were nonexistent which meant that those who could afford lavish meals were getting all of the benefits from them, as well.
For the wealthy, those meals consisted of mostly protein as vegetables were considered to be peasant food. Of course, in today's world, entire meal plans are created around a plant-based lifestyle and it has absolutely nothing to do with the wages a person earns or their perceived status in society. However, during the Medieval Ages, it was a rarity that any vegetable would be found on a banquet table or would be served to anyone of a high-ranking status. Meats would include unique animals that we'd never dream of eating today such as peacocks, swans, cranes, seals, whales, and porpoises. When it came to large, extravagant celebrations, that was when the suckling pig would be brought out as this was considered to be the entree of all entrees, and was a true delicacy. For special occasions such as holidays, a pie called umble pie would be made with whatever game meat was available, flavored with spices we associate with the holidays today - cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
As an alternative to milk, substitutions such as almonds and walnuts were used, which actually date things such as plant-based milk and butter back to the Medieval Ages. The reason for this, however, was not due to a plant-based dietary need; rather, the use of nuts instead of dairy milk came out of necessity as it often lasted longer and did not need to be kept cold. In addition, grains would also be found on the table sometimes, such as legumes and lentils, which were often served with the meal. As a side or something to accompany the meat that filled banquet tables, cheese was often presented. The types of cheese at the table often consisted of varieties such as edam, parmesan, and brie. These cheeses would last longer due to their ability to age as they sat, and since cheese is meant to be served at room temperature, they did well to sit out while the meal was being enjoyed.
Stews and soups were also common of the time period and while it's not likely they'd be served for large celebrations, they would be present at the table during a normal dinner. During this time, it was also common for breakfast to be something that wasn't eaten regularly or at all. Meals consisted of two dinners: dinner in the middle of the day and a lighter dinner that was served later on.