• Imagining History

What did Vikings Eat? - A Brief Guide for KS2

Updated: Oct 5

Ever wondered what Vikings ate? Us too! Which is why we delved deep into our research books to uncover the surprisingly varied diet that Vikings enjoyed. Let's see what was first on the menu:


MEAT


On the whole, Vikings ate much better than the Anglo-Saxons. This is due to the fact that they ate meat pretty much every day. Vikings weren't overly picky eaters and would scoff down pigs, cows, sheep and goats with gusto.


Vikings spent a huge time out at sea, so fish were frequently gobbled up too; herrings being a particular favourite. Vikings would eat herring dried, salted, smoked, and pickled. All these techniques were handy for preserving fish so it would last for a long time. They even preserved fish by coating it in whey - that's the gloopy yellow gunk left over after milk is curdled.


Vikings were expert hunters, this meant reindeer, elk and even bear could be tracked, killed and dished up for dinner time.


Another meat favoured by the Vikings? Horse.


That's right, HORSE.

Could you eat a horse? Vikings could, would and did.

Horses were even raised for food, just like chickens, cows or sheep are today. This is another reason why the Vikings really didn't get on with the Anglo-Saxons: eating horse meat was forbidden by the Christian Church.



BOILED IS BEST


When we think of a Viking Longhouse, we imagine a spit at one end of an abode, nestled over a roaring open fire. Impaled on the spit is a sheep, cow or - gulp - horse carcass, slowly being rotated, spitting fat onto the flames below, until, finally, it is roasted.


However, that's not the reality that recent archaeological evidence suggests. Instead of roasting or frying, boiling was the Vikings favourite method of cooking. Meat and veg would be bunged into a big cauldron and then brought to the boil. At the end of a long day of boiling, in the pot would be left a meal called 'Skause'. When boiled meat and veg was taken out of the pot, new meat and veg was lobbed in to replace it. This meant that the same pot of Skause could be boiled for days and days and days until it became a big bowl of sludge!



DON'T FORGET THE VEGETABLES


Vikings didn't have access to the wide variety of fruit and veg we can buy from our local supermarket today.

They were limited to the food they could grow on their own farms. So that's stuff like cabbages, beans and peas. They also ate carrots, but not orange ones, these carrots were white. Fun fact: orange, white, yellow and purple carrots can all be grown.


Vikings loved their herbs too, dousing their pot of Skause in spices like coriander and cumin.


Finally, wild apples and berries would be picked from the land to ensure they hit their 5 a day.



WASH IT ALL DOWN WITH BEER. LOTS OF BEER.


Vikings loved drinking beer, and who can blame them? Whilst water could be filled with all sorts of nasty diseases, beer - which was brewed - could be drunk risk free. It also had loads of calories in it - brilliant for providing energy if you're running low on food.


Viking beer was brewed from barley and mead (the mead being fermented honey and water) and would last for a long time before going off - making it the ideal drink for long voyages.


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