Peasants ate primarily food made from grains and vegetables in the Middle Ages. They also drank mostly ale, since water was unsafe, and wine was too expensive.
Meat and spices were signs of wealth during the Middle Ages. Animals roamed the property owned by wealthy landowners and had to be hunted. Since peasants had to obtain permission and sometimes pay in order to hunt on the lands of landlords, meat was a rare treat. When trade routes began expanding and spices from the East began to be imported, spices also became a symbol of wealth.
Without access to expensive food, peasants ate mostly bread and porridge made from barley, which was inexpensive. The bread was often consumed for days, even after it had gone stale. Honey was used as a sweetener to foods. Many peasants also cultivated their own cheese. Only those herbs grown easily in a garden were accessible to commoners. These included rosemary, basil, chives and parsley. After nearly a third of the population of Europe died as a result of the bubonic plague in the late Middle Ages, food became more plentiful. During this time, it was easier for peasants to obtain foods, such as meat, that were once reserved almost exclusively for the wealthy.