This introductory chapter provides a background of the concept of food in medieval England. Although a very wide range of foodstuffs was consumed, there were assumptions about what should constitute food in the first place. Texts from the late fourteenth century give a glimpse of the beliefs of medieval men about the earliest foods. John Mirk's Festial, a sermon cycle from the late 1380s, noted that before the Flood, men had eaten no flesh and had not drunk anything other than water. The soil was fertile, and men needed no food other than what grew in the earth. But after the Flood, God gave man leave to eat the flesh of clean beasts and to drink wine. The rest of the chapter describes the characteristics of medieval food as well as meals and their structure.
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