Food and Drink
Keeping their people strong and healthy was the Viking way of life. Many aspects of their daily life reflected this belief. Food was no expection. From peasants to kings, all Vikings ate very well. The Vikings understood that people could not fight or protect their homeland if they were weak from hunger or a lack of healthy food.
There was a great deal of coastline, so there was an ample year-around supply of fish, seafood, turtle eggs, and water fowl to eat. Most Vikings were farmers. They planted grains and vegetables. Grains were used to make flat breads, porriage, and beverages. They kept bees for honey. They gathered berries. They kept chicken and geese for eggs, and cows for buttermilk and butter. The big difference in diet between the Vikings and other people in Europe at the time was that the Vikings ate meat every day. The most common meat was pork as hogs were easy to raise and quick to grow. They also ate beef, mutton, goats, elk, bear, reindeer, wild chickens, and geese. They even ate horses.
Living in Scandinavia, they had a great deal of cold weather. The Vikings made sure they kept ample supplies of stored food on hand to use during times of bad weather, or to use while traveling. All summer long, they dried fish for storage. They stored food safely, some by drying or pickling it.
Their plates and bowls were made of wood instead of pottery. People ate meals with their fingers, off wooden plates. They used a knife they carried with them always to chop food. They used their knives as both a knife and a fork. The Vikings did not use spoons as we think of spoons today. But they did use scoops, carved out of antlers, to eat foods served in bowls. These spoons like scoops were artistically decorated with carved heads of mythical beasts and other designs. They ate some food with their fingers.
They drank ale, wine, and water from animal horns. Some drinks were sweetened with honey. Horns were highly decorated or carved with designs to identify the owner. Horns were not shared. Everyone had their own. They kept their horns with them, usually hanging from a belt around their waist.
The Vikings loved parties. They would party for funerals, weddings, seasonal festivals, and religious festivals. Each party or festival might continue for weeks. Each was accompanied by a great deal of feasting with simple and nutritional foods and beverages.
How do we know today what the Vikings ate over 1,000 years ago? From their trash! Archaeologists can tell a great deal from the remains of bones and other materials found at digs.