How would you define unbearable table manners

Table manners in the Middle Ages

From hand to mouth

In the early Middle Ages, the eating habits of the Greco-Roman culture mixed with the Celtic-Germanic way of life in Europe. Around 1000 AD, the diet we are familiar with today, consisting of cereal products, vegetables, meat and fish, developed.

As a rule, the basic food supply was secured, but in the early Middle Ages most people struggled against daily hunger and simply for survival.

The sometimes highly cultivated table manners of antiquity had been forgotten. Flat, sliced ​​loaves of bread served as plates, people ate with the fingers, there were seldom spoons or knives. After the meal, the fingers were wiped on their own clothes.

These table manners were very similar among peasants and nobles at that time.

However, there were big differences in the places where food was prepared, i.e. the kitchens.

The "kitchen" of the peasants, if one can call it one at all, consisted mainly of a simple open hearth above which a pot hung on an iron hook.

The kitchen of the higher-ups was essentially different. In some cases there were huge kitchen facilities with up to seven stoves and a cook as supervisor. These kitchens were mostly housed in their own buildings away from the actual residential buildings.

With women came the rules of etiquette

In the early Middle Ages women were not allowed to sit at the table. That changed in the 11th century: couples sat together at the table and shared cups and bowls.

More and more table rules were introduced, for example washing hands before eating. A whole series of rules of behavior quickly emerged, which were first observed by the aristocrats and then more and more by the people:

  • Don't start eating before the others start.
  • Don't stuff too big a piece in your mouth.
  • Don't drink or speak with your mouth full.
  • Don't scratch your body or head.
  • Be careful not to let any six-footed animals crawl around you.
  • Wipe your mouth when you take the mug.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough, let everyone breathe, but turn away.
  • Even if you particularly like a piece from your table neighbor, do not take it away.

Elbows not on the table

The table manners in the high and late Middle Ages were finer than is widely known. Long fingernails, throwing rubbish under the table, blowing your nose with your hand, scratching, spitting, cleaning your teeth with the tip of a knife and licking your fingers were prohibited.

As in the early Middle Ages, people still ate with their fingers, even in fine company, but table manners became more and more cultivated.

Around 800 years ago it was frowned upon to lay your elbows on the table and gnaw bones with your teeth or work with your fingernails.

Only the rediscovery of the napkin was a long time coming until the 15th century. As a rule, both men and women in the Middle Ages wiped their mouths with their hands and their own clothes were used to clean greasy fingers and blow their nose.