Northern European Food History - Ham and Beer
Welcome to Study Guides!

European Food History

Northern Europeans ate a lot of ham

April 2016 - Food is one of the most important ways that people can show what group they belong to: we eat this kind of food, and our enemies, those people over there, they eat some other weird kind of food that we wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole.

stone walls and pits
Beer brewery in Regensburg,
Germany (179 AD)

The Germans and the Romans felt just this way about each other's food. Romans drank wine with their meals, and used olive oil to cook with (and as soap and shampoo and moisturizer). But Germans drank beer with their meals, and used butter to cook with (and to clean themselves with too, even though the Romans said it made them smell funny). The main reason for this was that the hotter, drier climate in the south made it possible to grow grapevines (for wine) and olive trees (for oil), but in Germany it was easier to grow grain and there was plenty of pasture for cattle as well. So people in northern Europe drank beer, because you make beer out of barley, and they ate butter, because butter comes from cows' milk.


Probably the Germans also ate more milk, cheese, and meat than the Romans did, because they kept cows. This may explain why Romans like Tacitus describe the Germans as being larger people than Romans: they had more protein in their diets while they were growing up (French people, who tend to be small, are always telling me that the reason Americans are so oversized is that they drink too much milk when they are children).

Learn by doing: eat some ham and cheese
More about pigs and pork

Bibliography and further reading about Northern European food:

More about Northern Europe home

Celebrating Black History Month with the pharaoh Hatshepsut, the queen Shanakdakhete, the poet Phillis Wheatley, the medical consultant Onesimus, the freedom fighters Toussaint L'Ouverture, Denmark Vesey, Yaa Asantewaa, and Samora Moises Machel, and the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Study Guides
  • Publisher:
  • Date Published:
Proud of your class page, homework page, or resource page? Send it in and win a "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Cool stuff we've been enjoying: Looking for birthday gifts? Check out these new Chromebooks - all the computer you need for only $229.00!. Then study in peace with these Beats wireless headphones - for the exact same price! When you're done, show off your presentation or watch a movie with this excellent smartphone projector for only $39.99!

Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more?
ADVERTISEMENT is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Study Guides, . Web. 26 February, 2017