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A Monk's Diet

Monks of the Cistercian order were mostly vegetarian. Their founder, St Bernard told his followers : "I abstain from meat because if I feed my body too much, I nourish carnal desire thereby; I eat bread in moderation, because a heavy stomach prevents me from standing up straight at my prayers."

The monks who lived at Rushen Abbey would have eaten bread, fruit, herbs and vegetables. Fish, eggs or cheese may have been allowed occasionally on feast days in later times. to drink the monks were allowed about three quarters of a litre of beer or cider per day. Wine may have been available too.

There would have been two meals a day in summer and only one in winter. Lunch probably consisted of vegetable stews and salads, together with bread. Herbs from the garden were used to flavour food, and also beer and wine.

A common dish was pottage, a kind of thick vegetable soup. Many ingredients could go into it: cabbage, peas, beans onions, leeks, colewort (a kind of cabbage), radish, dandelion, pot marigold, mint, thyme, valerian, wood correl, borage, daisy, betony, fennel and other herbs.

Here is a modern version of pottage which you might like to try yourself.

500g (1lb) shelled peas
200g (8oz) chopped cabbage
1 litre (2pts) stock or water
Handful of parsley
2 springs of hyssop (or thyme)
100g (4oz) soft breadcrumbs
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook the peas and cabbage in stock or water until tender for about 30 minutes. Chop the parsley and hyssop or thyme finely and add to the liquid, stirring well. Liquidise the mixture. Mix in the breadcrumbs as thickener and add solt and pepper to taste. Reheat slowly and serve piping hot with a bread roll or bun.

Many thanks to MNH for providing this information.

A Monk at Rushen Abbey

A Monk at Rushen Abbey

Some Monks Getting Dressed

Herbs Used in a Monk's Diet

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