journey to the dark past

A thousand years ago our forebears lived in a “dark age.” They themselves did not think it was dark and they were only half wrong. To those who think we are entering a new dark age…

…Food varied with the region and with class. One could map all of Europe with divisions into wine regions, beer regions, cider regions, with a special patch for Muslim Spain, consumer of fruity sherberts ( a word of Arabic derivation, by the way). Or one could divide the world into butter lands and olive oil lands.

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The class difference in foods was equally trenchant. The noble ate meat, game, and pastries out of vanity; he was punished for vitamin insufficiency by skin diseases, a furious springtime itch, and occasional scurvy. The peasant had little meat, and that usually only in the autumn, when the less likely pigs and cattle were slaughtered to save winter feed. Their product was certain to be tough; a favorite joke was to refuse the meat and ask for a piece of hide instead.Herrings and other sea fish were plentiful near the coasts. The peasant’s staples were vegetables, especially peas, beans, lentils, cabbages, turnips, leeks, and onions, and bread, whether of rye, barley, oats, or wheat.

—Raoul Glaber, Historiae, Book 3, chapter 4 (for a more extensive excerpt):
So on the threshold of the aforesaid thousandth year, some two or three years after it, it befell almost throughout the world, but especially in Italy and Gaul, that the fabrics of churches were rebuilt, although many of these were still seemly and needed no such care; but every nation of Christendom rivaled with the other, which should worship in the seemliest buildings. So it was as though the very world had shaken herself and cast off her old age, and were clothing herself everywhere in a white garment of churches. Then indeed the faithful rebuilt and bettered almost all the cathedral churches, and other monasteries dedicated to divers saints, and smaller parish churches.. . When therefore, as we have said, the whole world had been clad in new church buildings, then in the days following that is, in the eighth year following the aforesaid thousandth year after. the Incarnation of our Saviour – the relics of very many saints, which had long lain hid, were revealed by divers proofs and testimonies; for these, as if to decorate this revival, revealed themselves by God’s will to the eyes of faithful, to whose minds also they brought much consolation.—Read More:

The important meal came in the evening after the day’s work, and the main dish everywhere was a great pot-au-feu, the contents being everything available. Honey and fruit in its prime were the only sweetening. Except in bad years, the peasant’s food was abundant, although unvarying. We would find it dreadfully monotonous, and complain of the lack of salads, sweets, seasonings, hot drinks. But we have substituted a monotony of our own, with the abolition of seasonal foods. We know hardly a difference between the diets of January and July.

—This criticism usually implies that the nobility had nothing better to do than make their armor look fancy while the peasants died in droves while fighting their lords’ wars because they couldn’t afford armor (another misconception). It is also used to make fun of the stupid knights who wore such armor because if they landed facedown in a puddle, they would be unable to lift themselves and would drown (I always wonder why these people don’t consider that such a knight could just roll over).
Evidence for cranes being used to hoist knights onto horseback is sketchy, if it even exists at all. The context in which cranes may have been used is quite limited. Armor used for jousts in tournaments was much heavier than armor used for battle. The extra layers of metal protected knights from injury since tournaments were a sport.—Read More:

As for housing, our noble ancestors of the tenth century occupied rude wooden strongholds, for the arts of stonecutting and masonry were still little practiced, except in Germany, and building stone and lime and cement for mortar were rarely obtainable. The noble family, with their retainers, dwelt  together in the hall or common room, by night unrolling their straw pallets on the floor. The peasant cottages in which most of our forefathers lived were built of whatever materials lay at hand. In England they were chiefly wattle-and-daub. Upright stakes were “wattled,” or intertwined with osiers or twigs, and “daubs,” or dabs, of clay and mud were plastered on. A poorly daubed house could nearly dissolve in a downpour.

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