Sugar, Spices and Money: The Thedas Cuisine Project
For the purposes of this project, using medieval money as a base, the following currency values will be applied:
Medieval Money vs Modern Day Money:
- 1 pound (20 Shillings) = $650 / £530 / €620
- 1 shilling (12 pence) = $32 / £26 / €31
- 1 pence (4 farthings) = $2.60 / £2 / €2.50
- 1 farthing = $0.65 / £0.50 / €0.60
Thedas Money Vs. Medieval Money:
- 1 gold = 1 pound, 9 pence, 4 farthings
- 1 silver = 2.5 pence (10 farthings)
- 1 copper = 0.1 farthing
Thedas Money Vs. Modern Day Money:
- 1 gold = $676 / £550 / €645
- 1 silver = $6.5 / £5 / €6.25
- 1 copper = $0.06 / £0.05 / €0.06
Sugar would be very rare outside of the nobility, due to its extreme cost. One pound of sugar would cost nearly 15 silver. In terms of real world money, you’re looking at an equivalent of about $98. The average lay-person would most likely make anywhere between 50 copper and 3 silver per day. Paying the equivalent of between 5 and 15 days wages on a pound of sugar was just not possible for most people. It should also be noted that a small two-person peasant home probably only cost about 3 or 4 gold.
To put that in perspective, that’s kind of like paying $98 for a pound of sugar when you only make $19.50 a day, and the cost of a house is $2000. Of course, most people would most likely rent their houses. The cost of renting that same house would probably be 1 gold per year, which would probably be payable per month like our own real-world rent. So most people would be paying the equivalent of $56 per month to rent their house.
To put that in perspective, given current-era real world money, that’s like making $300 a week and renting a two bedroom house for $174 a month (you could also buy the house for $6200). In this same scenario, sugar costs $300 per pound. To put in perspective how HIGH that would be, a brand new BMW S-series would cost $1300.
Because of these reasons, liberal use of sugar (even among the nobility) would be very rare, and would be a sign of extreme luxury.
Because of these prices, the vast majority of the common peoples within Thedas would use honey and local fruit for their sweeteners. Contrasted with today, where honey is now much more expensive than sugar, it was the other way around in the middle ages. Whereas sugar would cost around 15 silver per pound in Thedas, honey would cost closer to 2 silver per pound. Bee husbandry was far cheaper than sourcing sugar or growing sugar, and therefore the end product was much cheaper as well. Many families would also keep their own bee-hives, and so most communities had at least one steady supply of fresh honey. Most communities would still use it sparingly, however, as it would mostly be sold to nobles, with the excess being used by the community, or farmers themselves.
Spices would be exceedingly expensive in Thedas, especially if you wanted to get spices that weren’t native to the kingdom you lived in. While these spices were cheaper in their native lands, cheaper did not always equate to affordable. The majority of people who used these spices were either in the small group of those who could afford them - or they knew how to forage or grow them.
Cinnamon, for example, would have been native to The Anderfels, parts of Nevarra, and Tevinter. Inside of these kingdoms, cinnamon would still sell for around 15 silver per pound. Outside of these kingdoms, however, the price would vary depending on how far they would be shipped. The end price for spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves would be anywhere between 50 silver to 2 gold per pound. While the end price could still be manageable, given that spices were sold by the ounce, it would still be a considerable expense.
The following is a list of example spices. The first price is the price (per pound) in their native habitat, the second is the additional price for shipment (per 10 miles). The third price is the estimated price (per pound) after their shipment from their native habitat to the other side of Thedas (average of 500 miles).
- Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves: 15 silver | 3 silver | 1 gold, 65 silver
- Pepper, white pepper, peppercorns: 20 silver | 4 silver | 2 gold, 20 silver
- Saffron: 75 silver | 12 silver | 6 gold, 75 silver
- Sea Salt: 5 silver | 2 silver | 1 gold, 5 silver
- Mineral Salt: 1 silver | 50 copper | 26 silver
- Plant salt: 50 copper | 25 copper | 12 silver, 50 copper
- Grains of Paradise: 40 silver | 10 silver | 5 gold, 40 silver
- Anise, Juniper Berries: 2 silver | 5 silver | 2 gold, 52 silver
- Star Anise: 10 silver | 5 silver | 2 gold, 60 silver
- Allspice, Cardamom, Ginger: 20 silver | 6 silver | 3 gold, 20 silver
For spices not listed, just assume that it would have a similar price as to any spices that are similar on the above list.
Herbs would be much cheaper than spices, but not as widely available. Most herbs that were shipped would be their dried versions, which would of course be inferior to the fresh variants. Dried variants of herbs would, of course, be cheaper than fresh.
With the following list, the first price is the price (per bunch) for fresh, and the second is for dry. For herbs, the shipping cost would most likely be much more uniform when compared to spices. Therefore, assume a simple 50 copper per 10 miles when shipping an herb from its native habitat.
- Leaf herbs (Basil, bay leaf, mint, lemon balm, etc): 1 silver | 50 copper
- Root herbs (garlic, burdock, dandelion, etc): 50 copper | 12 copper
- Flowered Herbs (hyssop, borage, lavender, etc): 2 silver | 50 copper
The following is a list of food basics, and their average prices. This is not an inclusive list of everything. It is merely a guide to give you an idea of what the average person would pay for food in Thedas.
- Cheap Ale (per gallon): 50 copper
- Good Ale (per gallon): 1 silver
- Cheap Wine (per gal): 2 silver
- Good Wine (per gal): 10 silver
- Cheap Beer (per gal): 2 silver
- Good Beer (per gal): 8 silver
- Milk (per quart): 50 copper
MEAT AND LIVESTOCK:
- Cow, alive: 50 silver
- Beef, butchered (whole cow): 3 gold
- Beef, butchered (per pound): 35 copper
- Pig, alive: 15 silver
- Pork, butchered (whole pig): 70 silver
- Pork, butchered (Per pound): 45 copper
- Sheep, Alive: 5 silver
- Mutton, butchered (whole sheep): 60 silver
- Mutton, butchered (Per pound): 40 copper
- Lamb, Alive: 10 silver
- Lamb, butchered (whole lamb): 50 silver
- Lamb, butchered (per pound): 60 copper
- Fowl, alive: 25 copper
- Fowl, butchered (whole bird): 75 copper to 3 silver
- Fowl, butchered (per pound): 15 copper
- Goose or Duck, alive: 1 silver
- Goose or duck, butchered (whole bird): 4 silver
- Goose or duck, butchered (per pound): 22 copper
FRUITS, VEGETABLES, GRAINS AND FATS:
note: 1 bushel = 60 pounds
- Wheat: 15 silver per quarter bushel
- Wheat flour: 4 silver per pound
- Barley: 12 silver per quarter bushel
- Barley flour: 3 silver per pound
- Oats: 5 silver per quarter bushel
- Oat Flour: 2 silver per pound
- Peas, Dried: 1 silver per quarter bushel
- Pea flour: 30 copper per pound
- Peasant’s Flour (mixture of barley, oat, and pea): 15 copper per pound
- Local Fresh vegetables: Between 50 copper and 2 silver per pound
- Local Fresh fruit: Between 1 and 4 silver per pound
- Local Dried Fruit: Between 50 copper and 1 silver per pound
- Foreign Vegetables (fresh): 6 silver per pound
- Foreign Fruit (Fresh): 12 silver per pound
- Foreign dried fruit: 2 to 4 silver per pound
- Butter: 30 copper per pound
- Beef suet: 40 copper per pound
- Mutton or Lamb suet: 20 copper per pound
- Pork suet (or lard): 15 copper per pound
- Bread: 40 copper per loaf
- Cheese: 20 copper per pound
- Eggs: 1 copper each
- Yeast: 1 copper per ounce
This post will most likely be referenced throughout the Thedas Cuisine Project. As you can see from the above, most commoners in Thedas would very much live day-to-day as far as food cost was concerned.