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How to Eat Like a Paladin

When I was in college, I used to split grocery costs with my roommate, Ed. And by “split,” I mean I completely and mercilessly took advantage of him.

You see, Ed is a thin, svelte gentleman, while I am gluttonous swine. Out of the pack of 8 hot dogs we “split,” Ed would eat a single frankfurter while I would scarf down a half dozen, mustard on my face, leaving one as some sort of absurd rationalization that I at least wasn’t eating everything that wasn’t bolted down.

Besides, while hot dogs came 8 in a pack, the buns came 12 in a pack for no logical reason in the universe, so nice guy that I am, those extra buns were all Ed’s. Clearly, I do nothing but give.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I have bad eating habits, is what I’m confessing. But do you know who ate like they were working toward their best life?

Paladins, that’s who.

How to Eat Like a Paladin

The Knights Templar are the closest reasonable historical analog to what a D&D player might term as a ‘paladin.’ With the average life expectancy of 31 years of age in the 13th century, the Templar Knights, then, must have seemed to have magical powers, as many members of this Catholic military order lived well past 60. And even then, they often died at the hands of their enemies rather than from illness.

Consider these examples:

  • Geoffrei de Charney, who was executed in 1314, is believed to have been around 63.
  • That same year, Jacques de Molay, the final Grand Master of The Knights Templar, was burned alive at the age of 70.
  • Fellow Grand Masters Thibaud Gaudin, Hugues de Payens, and Armand de Périgord, to name just a few, all lived into their sixties.

Those ages were positively geriatric for those in Medieval times, so many folk attributed the long lives of Templar Knights to a special divine gift, like they were paladins casting healing spells or something. But modern scholars agree it was likely something much more benign: Templar Knights didn’t eat six hot dogs in a single sitting.

The compulsory dietary rules of the order are thought to be the primary factor that contributed to the long life and good health of the Knights. Contrary to most modern portrayals, Templar Knights lived genuinely humble lives in service to God.

For example, Knights were not permitted even to speak to women, as such would go against their formal vows of chastity. And even though the Templar Knights grew rich from donations and by safeguarding traveling pilgrims’ money, historians have ample evidence that the money was handled carefully, fitting the formal vow of poverty the men took.

Befitting their Lawful Good alignment, there were more rules. The knights were to protect orphans and widows, of course. In addition, they were to reject the company of rowdy, unscrupulous men. But it was really their diet that reflected their pious vows.

Drawing from the teachings of Saint Augustine, French abbot Bérnard de Clairvaux assembled the Primitive Rule of the Templars, a rulebook designed to structure the lives of the knights. A large portion of the rules were on dietary practices. They were:

  • Knights were to eat together, but to do so silently.
  • A sort of buddy system existed to enforce their efforts. Knights sat in pairs to make sure that neither was scarfing more than his share.
  • If they needed the salt, they had to ask for it to be passed quietly “…with all humility and submission.”
  • After eating, everyone sat in silence and gave thanks.
  • Scraps of bread were collected and given to the poor, and whole loaves set aside for future meals.

For nearly 200 years, the order thrived across Europe in this way, peaking at around 15,000 members. But, remember, The Templar Knights were expert warriors, their ranks being filled by some of the best fighters, warriors, and jousters in the world.

These knights lived active, military lives and you can’t crusade on an empty stomach. So they were allowed to occasionally eat meat.

  • Meat was eaten no more than three times a week, often pork or dried fish. 
  • On Sundays, everyone ate meat. Higher-up members had both lunch and dinner with some kind of roast animal (often beef with salt for seasoning).
  • On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, the knights ate only vegetable-filled meals with occasional almond milk, eggs, and cheese.
  • Otherwise, they might eat potage, made with oats or fiber-rich vegetable stews.
  • In their gardens, they grew fruits and vegetables, especially Mediterranean produce such as figs, almonds, pomegranates, and olives.

On Fridays, the knights observed a Lenten fast of no eggs, milk, or other animal products. Yet, there was a concession. The wounded or sick were granted a pardon from the fast and were fed in order to return them to fighting shape as quickly as possible.

Knights drank wine but you better bet that this too was restricted. Every paladin received the same small-cup ration of wine, which was diluted, and they were advised that because Solomon said that “wine corrupts the wise” alcohol should “not be taken to excess, but in moderation.” Although, they allegedly mixed a potent cocktail of antiseptic aloe vera, hemp, and palm wine, which was known as the Elixir of Jerusalem and may have helped accelerate healing from injuries, although that is a story for its own article.

Interestingly, despite having no formal knowledge of germs, one final dietary regulation was in the Primitive Rule of the Templars. Templar Knights were subject to mandatory handwashing before eating or praying, a rule  “specifically designed to avoid the spreading of infections.” Ironically, an awareness of handwashing is thought to have come from interactions with Arab doctors, renowned during the period for their superior medical knowledge.  And it was this knowledge alone that may have held an even greater link on their longer lifespans than even their diet.

Sure, Paladins are buzzkills. They don’t even gorge themselves on fatty meats like hot dogs. Aligned as lawful good, Paladins are sanctimonious goodie two-shoes, so it’s understandable that you might want to align yourself as chaotic neutral. But spare a thought for rules and regulations of a Templar Knight next time your party needs a well-placed Laying on of Hands spell to avoid a TPK.