The Medieval Beverage We Still Drink Today

Monday January 15, 2018 Written by sam


First the strawberries are soaked in wine. Then the mixture is ground up and combined with sugar, spices and almond milk, before being brought to the boil so it thickens. Voilà! A tasty, dairy-free strawberry pudding that any trendy café would be proud to serve. Except for one thing: this is a recipe from the Middle Ages.

You see, 21st-century hipsters, lactose intolerants and vegans weren’t the first to go nuts for almond milk. The beverage was all the rage in Medieval Europe, feted for its health-giving properties and culinary versatility, and consumed by the upper classes with a zeal bordering on what Professor Melitta Weiss Adamson describes as “addiction” in her book Food in Medieval Times

From its first-known mention in a 12th-century Italian medical text, to its use throughout Europe as a substitute for cow’s milk during Lent, almond milk’s popularity lasted for centuries.

Flick through any 14th and 15th-century cookbook, and almond milk features prominently. A key ingredient in medieval favourite blancmange, it was also frequently used to make almond butter, rice puddings, even faux eggs. But because of its exorbitant price, only the aristocracy could afford it (before it eventually became accessible to affluent members of the general public as well).

Meanwhile, the less well-heeled only had the pleasure when they were ill. Then, as now, almonds were renowned for their nutritious qualities, and sick people were often fed almond-milk-based dishes as an integral part of their recovery.  It certainly would have been a safer bet than that yucky unpasteurised dairy milk.