Our self-congratulatory society likes to tell us how before it came about, we were filthy little urchins who lived under turds in a sea of disease, ignorance, and failure.
Peasants (those who worked in manual work) would have had fresh porridge and bread daily – with beer to drink. In addition, each day would have an assortment of dried or cured meats, cheeses, and fruits and vegetables from their area. Poultry, chicken, ducks, pigeons, and geese were not uncommon on the peasants dinner table. Some peasants also liked to keep bees, to provide honey for their tables. Given the choice between McDonalds and Medieval peasant food, I suspect the peasant food would be more nutritious and tasty. The rich of the time had a great choice of meats – such as cattle, and sheep. They would eat more courses for each meal than the poor, and would probably have had a number of spiced dishes – something the poor could not afford.
In the Middle Ages, most towns had bathhouses – in fact, cleanliness and hygiene was very highly regarded – so much so that bathing was incorporated into various ceremonies such as those surrounding knighthood. Some people bathed daily, others less regularly – but most people bathed. Furthermore, they used hot water – they just had to heat it up themselves, unlike us with our modern plumbed hot water. The French put it best in the following Latin statement: Venari, ludere, lavari, bibere; Hoc est vivere! (To hunt, to play, to wash, to drink, – This is to live!) – Listverse
That this was true has been known to historians for some time, but popular myths live on because people love to feel witty for repeating them. “You don’t like modern society? Well, go back to living under a turd near a sea of disease, then!”
The real truth is that we have innovated, through our technology and advanced learning, a superior form of brattiness. No other society in history has had this degree of expectation of entitlement and unwillingness to follow through on any action requiring more than one step, or any steps which do not involve pushing buttons. We’ve beaten filth, which is good because unlike people in the middle ages, our main role in life seems to be sitting around very cleanly complaining about everything and doing nothing.