Thursday, July 22, 2010

Medieval Cooking and Almond Milk

Almond Milk...a definitively wonderful, delicious, healthful substitute for cow's milk.  It's nutty flavour lends itself beautifully to baked goods and sauces, it's easy to make at home - and for those who need to avoid soy (or soymilk), it's an invaluable addition to any vegan kitchen.  Personally, the only real competition to almond milk's "awesomeness" is rice milk - to me, they are par and I love them both equally.

Almonds originated in the Middle East, eventually making their way to Europe.  This helped form the almond's illustrious history during medieval times.  During the middle ages (5th - 16th century Europe) the eating norms were much, much different than today.  Two of the greatest paradigm differences were the inability to keep food cold, and the unavailability of many foodstuffs we take for granted today like white sugar, tomatoes, potatoes and corn just to name a few.  Spices and herbs that were available, were usually not affordable to working class.  This also applied to many meat products too.

Meat, especially beef, was expensive for peasants and they were normally not able to afford such luxuries, so instead had diets that mainly consisted of fava beans, rye, barley, buckwheat, oats, and of course almonds!  This was especially true during the later centuries after advances in agriculture.  Vegetables were in!  So ultimately, believe it or not, vegetarianism/veganism was practiced during the medieval times (albeit usually involuntarily). 

Almond milk was a staple for the medieval peasant family.  Due to cow's milk spoiling very quickly and being normally turned to cheese/butter, the masses caught onto the almond's versatility.   One of the greatest advantages of using almond milk during the middle ages was that it was perfectly fine to consume during Lent.

Almonds (particularly almond milk) permeated into almost every type of dish, and if you look back into medieval cookbooks, they are everywhere.  Yes, medieval cookbooks do exist, and if you're interest in culinary histories I highly recommend checking some out.


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