Rags of Light

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The Medieval peasant diet.

A cookbook reconstructs 12th-century commoners’ diet. Bread, beans and ale were the foundation of what seems like a pretty healthful table.

Cumbria’s peasants, it turns out, ate much as we strive to today—though for vastly different reasons. Lack of access to an international array of foods meant the peasants’ diets consisted of plant-based, low-sugar meals of locally sourced, if not home-grown ingredients; the book’s simple “Roast Onions with Thyme” recipe is emblematic. Voluntary, intermittent fasting wasn’t uncommon either, says Jones, albeit in the name of religious self-discipline rather than detoxification.