Viking Foods – a collection of handy links n chat
I was sent an interesting link and asked for more. Lots of friends sent me information on Viking foodstuffs, so I thought I would put all the links and chats together in one place. I am always glad to hear more.
I pontificate quite a lot so more rigid findings will be found in the links supplied and the future links and information you send me. Here you will find me ruminating like an ungulate.
I asked around about information of foodstuffs and a good friend Leah mentioned hearing of work by the York Archaeological Trust in York, Britain. Lots of bone and poo. Here are couple of things I ‘picked up’ from the conversation. Professor Terry O’Conner of University of York said that cattle were at the heart of daily lives. Although they were quite small compared to contemporary cows they were used for many things, leather, horn, meat, fat, dairy products and of course bone carving.
For some great bone carving skills, and indeed leather working, do visit Peter Merrett on his Facebook page.
Old bones is what were found mainly I understand, and this seems to indicate that the cattle were used for labour. They would be hauling things, carts and ploughs and such I guess. Dairy products would also be another reason for keeping the cows longer.
A couple of things came to mind, I would love feedback on these thoughts. Were there young male bones? Did they kill off most of the bulls and keep a few for breeding? Perhaps they hadn’t thought of that. If haulage was so important then bulls or steers would be useful.
I have heard Viking presenters describe the slaughter of animals in the early winter or late fall. They say that you tally up how much animal feed you have for the winter, calculate how many animals that will feed and then work out how many you can keep. So presumably there was a great working of animal materials at this time. Drying and working.
Preservation of food stuff is a thing I would like to hear more about. The communal gathering of wild flora for instance. The ways to keep meat. The equipment used. They must have been a lot of that going on. Where did they get the preservation materials? Lye, smokehouses, salt, vinegar, fermentation, honey boiling. I don’t know but I want to.
They would have course eaten lots of fish. There are remains to show so. I understand millions of oyster shells were found in the Coppergate dig in York. I imagine these were mainly fresh-water oysters. I wonder if they found pearls?
The sea isn’t far away (along the Humber) and Scandinavia isn’t that far away, especially if you think of preserved fish.
There are two rivers in York. The folks of Jorvik would certainly have noticed them, because they come up to visit you on a regular basis! Eel come to mind, I have seen reconstructions of eel catchers.
I have also seen coracles. Again, I want to hear more.
That dig in York found bones of an odd selection of creatures. As well as all the likely suspects when it comes to eating meat and fish there were also birds, frogs and mice bones.
What, I wonder, about the bones of animals which provide fur. There is a controversial thought. They are not mentioned here. Did the Vikings hunt for fur to wear? They traded it yes.
Cooking methods are also pointers, cauldrons, flat stones, griddles possibly, spits and pits.
When it come to the analysis of poo (coprolite?) another surprise food ingredient was discovered. Grit! They ate a lot of that, especially the poor. It got in the flour and wore away the teeth. The teeth were a limitation on life.
Thank you to Fiona for sending me a link to – From Loki to lipids: Using modern biology to discover Viking culture
So the above is looking at, among other things, the residues and fats within utensils. Looking at artefacts to see the logistics of eating.
And an interesting link to Yule in an interview with Dr Ashby…
I didn’t notice any reference to alcohol.
I was intrigued by the longstanding connection between Scandinavia and the Arctic.
And here is the Melting Pot site…
A great links page, and I like their blog the best.
Some other thoughts…
We can also look to the sagas and the stories and poems for pointers.
I hear talk of ballast plants, you fill the ship with stuff to sell, you trade for lighter things, you need ballast. Loads of soil and rock perhaps. This needs emptying out when you get home. So does all the animal waste I guess too. There are seeds in there. Stuff grows. I have been told that oregano grows in Norway because of this factor. So I hear.
Some common-sense thoughts (ramblings).
The placing of settlements, and marker stones point to foodstuffs. What is available in an area and what trade routes could have been established.
The availability of materials. Did the Icelandic people eat rotten food because they didn’t have any trees?
My pal Holger from Germany who I know from working with him in Njardarheimr Viking Town, and his wonderful crafting skills, posted this link to our group chat. This is the piece that got us all talking about other information and links.
I can’t help but disagree with the idea that Vikings lived from hand to mouth. You only survive long hard winters if you plan, work hard and work together.
Otherwise it is great.
Sea-leeks is interesting. Odin’s brothers planted them at the beginning of the world! So they must be important.
Mind you, there is also plenty of talk of snakes. Whole pit-fulls. Would that be true?
I would love to see all the veg and herbs we see planted out. The Viking house at Green Bay USA could have a go at a garden from these links in this blog.
Njardarheimr in Gudvangen would be really enhanced by gardens. There is talk here of plots and gardens.
I am sure I have seen other references to plots and lots. There was mention somewhere of the idea that they improved the land. They must have used compost.
Quite a bit of talk of cultivation too, especially onions.
As for plants Leah mentions someone who is involved in Historic England…
Hayley McParland their science advisor. She has written on the findings at the site of the Jorvik Centre ride in York.
The majority of plant finds seem to have been grasses, certainly on a microscopic analysis level; these were most likely oats, rye, wheat, barley and other grain producers. I guess these were mainly for flour, but could also have been for brewing (especially if they found Yarrow?).
Ah, there were lots of archaeobotanical remains which showed the culture, diet and crafts. I don’t have specifics though.
The methods of dying material could be tied back further towards plant cultivation, awareness and gathering.
I haven’t so far on this quest discovered any links to medicine, folk-medicine, folklore or beliefs.
Leah suggested that if you were visiting the Jorvik Centre you pre-book a copy of the Jorvik Centre Companion Guide to be waiting for you on arrival. I see you can mail order a copy but it seemed to be way more expensive that way.
Real nice to see a friend in this video for the York Archaeological Trust on our topic of Viking foods.
Ah thank you Zoe, at last talk of cooperative gathering and preservation.
And remember to spit.
It was also nice to see Fiona portraying Wulfruna demonstrating the related topic of pottery.
I have enjoyed spending time with culinary archaeologist Daniel Serra, here is a link to a wonderful book –
Let me take you now to University Wisconsin Green Bay’s Viking house.
It was built by the amazing couple Elspeth and Owen Christianson
Do visit the Facebook page for the Viking House which is managed by Jarldress Professor Heidi Sherman-Spendlow with the assistance of Jarldress-in-waiting Mariah, the building skills of Trodin Hegn (Dwayne) and many others.
The grounds, buildings and events have pretty much been on hold as things have been everywhere.
The future is ahead of us and will blossom deep into the past.
The Society for Creative Anachronism have a group in Green Bay and they are a great bunch of active reenactors of history. They get well involved with the development of ‘the house’.
Now let’s go to amazing star Alda Raven. As well as her work as a singer and creator of Gods Bless Ya! she also hosts the culinary creative Viking Kitchen which features Viking and Vikingesque cookery.
Here is her introductory feature…
And her visit to the Viking Village of Njardarheimr in Gudvangen, Norway where she works with Viking cook Trine Volder.
We loved dining with the Green Bay group of Sons of Norway. As well as a whole array of wonderful food from Scandinavia they had asked me to bring along a contribution. I realised all was planned so I thought I needed to create a dish no one else would think of; hence – Gas Station Delight!
And the wonderful array of delights from Sons of Norway GB…
Here is Trodin’s oven at the Green Bay Viking House…
Then we got the big fire going…
Here Heidi interviews Trodin (Dwayne) as he builds the oven…
He and I cooked up for the wonderfully entertaining Telga Glima…
Now over to Norway to visit the chieftain’s recreated kitchen…
To finish this is not cooking and not just Viking, but this is worth a search for on Facebook; Medieval Makers – re-enacting the medieval daily life; ace site.
That’s episode one of Viking food links and chat.
I am no expert, in fact even worse, I am a storyteller. I am interested, and I am even more interested to hear more. Do please send links and suggestions (Please don’t tell me off).
Saying Thank You
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