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Morning: Breaking the Fast

From the mid 16th century on, breakfast was promoted as an important way to start the day. Breakfast was often a simple affair for the servants. Some of the servants would start work before they had a chance to eat. Servants who worked in the kitchen would need to prepare breakfast for the Dauntesey family and other servants before they would get a chance to have their own breakfast

The picture below shows members of the Agecroft living history staff recreating a typical servant's breakfast. Bread would have been a large part of their diet. It was inexpensive and easy to produce at the manor. Agecroft was originally located near a river, so dried and salted fish may also have been part of their breakfast. Sometimes, the servants would have eaten a dish referred to as pottage, which was a warm dish made with grains. This breakfast, although simple, would have provide energy for the servants to do their chores throughout the day. The food that servants, which was similar to that eat by tenant farmers, would have been high in fiber. They often ate a great deal of grains and vegetables because these things were inexpensive and considered food for “poor people”. But if the diet was filling enough, it was actually healthier than the diet eaten by the upper class.

The beverage of choice for the servant’s breakfast was often beer. While that might not be what we would choose to drink in the morning, it made sense in 17th century England. Beverages that we might drink at breakfast today, like coffee or tea, were imported and were just becoming wildly available in England. Many juices we enjoy would also have been made from imported fruits. And the water supply’s safety was unreliable. So most servants would start the day with small beer, which had been filtered and had a lower alcohol content.

This breakfast might seem very different from what we might eat today. But can you see any similarities between your first meal of the day and what the servants at Agecroft might have eaten?





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