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  • Kinghts Templar Diet

    Posted on February 22nd, 2022 cwmoore No comments

    “All credits to Atlas Obscura” link at the end of this text

    The knights’ diets seem to have been a balancing act between the ordinary fasting demands on monks, and the fact that these knights lived active, military lives. You couldn’t crusade, or joust, on an empty stomach. (Although the Knights Templar only jousted in combat or training—not for sport.) So three times a week, the knights were permitted to eat meat—even though it was “understood that the custom of eating flesh corrupts the body.” On Sundays, everyone ate meat, with higher-up members permitted both lunch and dinner with some kind of roast animal. Accounts from the time show that this was often beef, ham, or bacon, with salt for seasoning or to cure the meat.

    It’s likely that these portions were considerable: If the knights weren’t allowed meat due to a Tuesday fast, the next day it would be available “in plenty.” One source suggests that cooks loaded enough meat onto their plates “to feed two poor men with the leftovers.”

    But on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, the knights ate more spartan, vegetable-filled meals. Although the rules describe these meals as “two or three meals of vegetables or other dishes eaten with bread,” they also often included milk, eggs, and cheese. Otherwise, they might eat potage, made with oats or pulses, gruels, or fiber-rich vegetable stews. (The wealthier brothers might mix in expensive spices, such as cumin.) In their gardens, they grew fruits and vegetables, especially Mediterranean produce such as figs, almonds, pomegranates, olives, and corn (grain).* These healthy foodstuffs likely also made their way into their meals.

    Once a week, on Fridays, they observed a Lenten fast—no eggs, milk, or other animal products. For hearty fare, they relied on dried or salted fish, and dairy or egg substitutes made from almond milk. Even here, however, there are pragmatic concessions. The weak and sick abstained from these fasts and received “meat, flesh, birds, and all other foods which bring good health,” to return them to fighting shape as quickly as possible.

    All the while, brothers drank wine—but this too was restricted. Everyone had an identical ration, which was diluted, and they were advised that alcohol should “not be taken to excess, but in moderation. For Solomon said … wine corrupts the wise.” In the Holy Lands, they allegedly mixed a potent cocktail of antiseptic aloe vera, hemp, and palm wine, known as the Elixir of Jerusalem, which may have helped accelerate healing from injuries.

    Franceschi describes other regulations beyond the Primitive Rules that were “specifically designed to avoid the spreading of infections.” These included mandatory handwashing before eating or praying, and exempting brothers in charge of manual tasks outdoors from food preparation or serving. Some of these innovations, picked up without any awareness of germs, may have resulted from interactions with Arab doctors, renowned during the period for their superior medical knowledge. By medieval medical standards, Templar Knights were at its apex, able to treat many illnesses and to take care of their weak.

    The order was one of the richest in the world—yet these rules prevented the knights from sitting on their laurels or gorging themselves on fatty, cured meat. In fact, many of these rules resemble modern dietary advice: Lots of vegetables, meat on occasion, and wine in moderation. A meal fit not for a king on a throne, but a knight with some serious crusading to do.

    *Update: This post has been updated to clarify that “corn” was (and still is!) used as a term for wheat or grain generally in Britain.


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