Gale Tobin on How to be Vegan during the Middle Ages — Gale Tobin

Gale Tobin
3 min readJan 22, 2022

Gale Tobin is feeling like a historian now. She’s been watching historical documentaries for a few hours now while having some light snacks. While watching the video, Gale Tobin suddenly has a realization. She suddenly asked herself if it was possible for a person to switch to the vegan diet while living during the Middle Ages.

While thinking whether it’s because of the carrots she ate or maybe she’s thinking far too much again, Gale Tobin decided that it would make for an interesting topic for today’s blog. So without hesitation, she immediately visits several research websites that talked about food and diets during the Middle Ages.

What Did People Eat During the Middle Ages?

Before Gale Tobin can step into the facts, one needs to first learn what people from the Middle Ages ate back then. Since this was a time when agriculture and fishing were the only sources for people to get their food, it’s already a given that food was always fresh but is also quick to rot. Thus, the only way to preserve food during the Middle Ages was through the use of salt and this is only limited to preserving meat.

For the wealthy though, food meant venison, white bread, spices, and poultry. If one lived near the sea, then fish is also a staple diet. As for the poor, their usual diet consisted of cheese, bread made from wheat, cabbages, beans, eggs, and crops that are easy to plant, such as potatoes. A peasant or commoner during the Middle Ages is lucky enough to have small amounts of meat in his/her diet. Common meat consumed by commoners is salted pork, bacon, and poultry.

Because clean sources of water during the Medieval period are scarce (thanks to pollution and unhygienic practices), people during the Middle Ages often drank wine or beer, depending on where they lived. Those who lived near the Italian states were more particular to wine because Rome and its surrounding city-states were the main producers of wine during the time. Meanwhile, the German-speaking citizens who lived near the River Danube are more accustomed to working in wheat and barley fields while enjoying their beer.

Is it Possible to go Vegan During the Middle Ages?

For this question, Gale Tobin says yes, but there is also a very big but to the statement.

One’s diet during the Middle Ages is entirely dependent on your upbringing and your family’s stature in society.

If one is born as a commoner, then no doubt, a plant-based diet is the recommended daily diet. But even if one is a nobleman, there is also no guarantee that meat is always plentiful. The long winters in Europe meant that animals are also going into hibernation, therefore, meat may be hard to come by. Meanwhile, plant-based food during the Middle Ages is almost everywhere. Of course, that depends on whether the city or kingdom where you live experienced a bountiful harvest.

In times of plenty, peasants enjoyed eating cabbages, turnips, potatoes, corn, and other plant-based meals. When there is a scarcity of food because of famine, long winters, wars, or during the dreaded Black Plague, people during the Middle Ages relied on nuts, berries, and mushrooms in order to survive.

During these extremely difficult times, people in the Medieval ages are expert foragers. They are able to pick which berries or mushrooms are poisonous and which are edible.
So in summary, Gale Tobin believes that going vegan is doable during the Middle Ages, yet only if one is lucky enough to live in a land that is abundant with crops and is located far away from wars and plagues.

Originally published at on January 22, 2022.



Gale Tobin

Gale Tobin is a creative writer and yoga instructor that thrives through her zest for life. She is a vegan who fights for animal rights and the environment.