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Today when we walk into the local supermarket, we take for granted how everything is presented in clean packaging, ready to eat.  Meat is grown and reared, crops are grown and harvested and so too were grains.  In Iron Age Britain people of the time carried the same mentality.  However food wasn’t prepared on a mass scale, and it’s this which differs the customs between now and then.

Over the years archaeologists have pieced together how Iron Age Britain’s prepared their food by looking at the evidence that has been left behind including pots, pans and other food related tools.  Most of the cooked food would have been cooked on an open fire which would have been done either outside during the summer or inside a dwelling during the winter. Unlike today, much of the food would have been dictated by seasons, excluding the meat which would have been slaughtered when needed. However this isn’t to say that meat was an everyday commodity. Fresh Meat would have only been cooked on rare occasions, with small amounts being eaten every now again in the form of stews.  This was because stews kept longer and could be reheated gradually on a fire. Lamb, Pork and Cow were the animals of choice in the day, but it was not unusual to eat rabbit, deer, dog and even horse to survive.

To form the basic natural food stuffs, wheat, barley and corn was purposefully grown and ground down using stone to make other food, such as bread (as previously mentioned). Vegetables also provided a clear everyday diet.  Beans, brassicas (such as broccoli, cabbage and possibly sprouts) and root vegetables also added to the healthy diet.  Pure self sufficiency took up most of the daily routine.  When it came to rearing livestock, it doesn’t stop at just providing food.  Milk was available at different points during the year, so its safe to assume that the milk was used to make cheese to store throughout the year.  Wool and the coats of the animals were also used for clothing and the bones could be dried and used for other tools such as pegs and maybe even weapons.

Interestingly historians have found that there is little evidence to suggest that fish was eaten, only in settlements that were located by the coast. When it came to preparing food, pots and pans were use to brew stews, with larger pots doubling as ovens.

The main diet would have come from grain. Stews, crudely brewed beer and porridges would have been simple commodities to produce, which most people would have eaten on a daily basis.  Bread, then and is now a well sort after item due to its specifications.  Bread was and is a long lasting, fresh and all round basic food stuff for any cupboard or whole in the ground.  When it comes to food, the Iron Age was literally a proverbial soup (excuse the pun) and its from this soup which set the grounding for food is produced today for masses.

Eddie Fox

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The Reunion Denagerie of Poems by Denny Bradbury