Food is a large part of every country’s culture. And Egypt can present lots of different dishes you have to try when visiting this beautiful country. Undoubtedly, most of these cuisines date back to Ancient Egypt food, during which they had a great variety of vegetables, herbs, and fruits, and they had taken advantage of all its delights. However, there is no menu left from this era, but many manuscripts and images portrayed on the walls of temples and tombs have told us more about what people ate and how they lived. Aside from that, Egyptians had a keen eye for culinary delights derived from the plants they grew. So, what did Ancient Egyptians eat? What did the Ancient Egyptian food look like? And even more, what were the secrets behind their ability and energy? Finally, we need to know what enabled them to build the greatest civilizations in the world.
That is what we will go through today, trying to break down the mysteries of Ancient Egyptian food.
What is Ancient Egyptian Food?
Across the world, there’s nowhere quite like this beautiful country, Egypt, when it comes to its legacy, and one component of its pride shows in its traditional dishes. When Ancient Egyptians thought of food left in the tombs of dead kings and queens which would help them in their go-to-after-death, they realized that bread would be the best snack. And that’s why bread is still the main component of any ancient Egyptian food. In Egypt, there is a popular saying when they refer to someone with a strong bond with them, “We ate bread and salt with them!” It reflects how bread is so vital for all Egyptians. And even they serve it only for the people they care about.
So, how did Ancient Egyptians make their bread?
Many hieroglyphic writings have depicted how Ancient Egyptians prepared their bread. And we here try to bring the nearly 4000-year recipe to be alive. But attention, please, it’s not an actual recipe. Instead, they left some images describing how they made their bread, and we here try to recall their loads of secrets used to prepare tons of their bread, estimated to be 15 different types, and some writings referred to about 40!
When we followed images displayed on the wall of a tomb near Luxor, Sennet’s Tomb, we found that Egyptians were the first people in history to use raw ingredients to make a smooth dough for bread.
Let’s see how they taught the world to make bread.
- Grind emmer wheat or barley to make flour.
- Combine the flour with water to prepare a dough
- Knead the dough in a large jar and start treading on it.
- Take a ball of dough and roll it out to make a round shape.
- Bake on coals or a flat surface like a griddle.
But in Ancient Egypt, there was more than one way to make bread. The last one could be for the populace. But as we delved further into Egypt, we discovered that the upper classes had access to a fancier bread. It combines egg, honey, and coriander. According to some Egyptologists, you can find on the walls of King Tut’s tomb a recipe to prepare bread with even lotus flower.
On other tombs, you can find bread modeled on different shapes, like well-puffed round loaves (which means they used yeast,) spirals, triangles, and conicals.
But, it didn’t seem enough for Ancient Egyptians. Those people were so creative that they made bread in the shape of their beloved animals, like cows, crocodiles, and even humans! Yes, that’s right, according to their legacy recorded on temples and scrolls of writing. Ancient Egyptian food contained baking pastries and pies. It was the first formation of pizza, and Egyptians till now prepare something just like the old pastries, “Fetter Meshaltet.” *scroll down to get the fetter meshaltet recipe
Moreover, they used molds to bake the dough as we use now. No wonder the other old civilizations referred to Ancient Egyptians as bread eaters.
Recipes from Ancient Egypt Kitchen (Bread and Pastries)
Bread recipe from Ancient Egypt still works:
As you might expect, Egypt’s food culture is deliciously rich, and we now recall how to prepare a risen ancient Egyptian bread.
Ingredients you need to prepare Ancient Egypt’s bread:
- 2 ½ emmer wheat *barley can is good too. Both were the staples of any recipe during this time.
- 1 cup water *240 milliliters *the amount of water can vary depending on the type of grains and how dry it is. So, be prepared to maximize the water.
- A teaspoon of salt *In the images, no mention of salt was made. However, it’s likely that they did so since extracting salt from the ground is a straightforward process. Anyway, for the flavor’s sake, we will include it in our recipe!
- 1 cup starter or sourdough*optional
Side tip: In Ancient Egypt, they used different types of sourdough like sour wine and yeast produced from grape skin or even wine.
- You may use an electric blender to grind the wheat. Still, because we need to get bread as identical as possible in Ancient Egypt, it would be better if you could bring a hand grinder to duplicate the coarse wheat they probably generated from grinding the emmer manually.
Side tip: Don’t use much wheat because you would spend time, and you are about to use all your strength, and your arms would be tried after this arduous grinding process.
Attention: there is an ingredient we will skip, rocks! Ancient bread probably included grit and stones due to backing the dough and grinding the grain using rocky utensils, leaving many grits. Archaeologists have argued that the mummies’ cavities, gingivitis, and damage to the ground teeth were caused by eating bread, which they allege was not particularly clean at the time.
- Now time for baking; bring a deep bowl, add ground wheat, the starter, and the water.
- Mix all the ingredients using your hands and knead it on a chopping board *I know it’s a modern way, and Ancient people used long jars or sometimes legs, but honestly, it seems complicated to do either. Just knead it on the board for a couple of minutes. And don’t worry, you will get the same result.
Side tip: Here is the thing, the emmer wheat doesn’t contain enough gluten. So no matter how many hours you would spend baking the dough, it’s close to impossible to get the nice perfect elastic dough you might imagine. And easy, even Ancient Egyptian food didn’t definitely contain a stretchy dough. But it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to knead at all! Wrong! We still need to incorporate the flour with water. And as we mentioned, we would probably need to add more water along the way because flour, as we know, love water.
- Feeling tired after all these hours of kneading and grinding! Okay, me neither! It’s time to rest. Set the doubt in a deep bowl for a couple of hours and let the yeast make its magic by rising its size. (Actually, it will increase a little bit, not so much magic like a modern sourdough!)
Side tip: Okay, I think there is a misunderstanding here. You will leave the dough for six hours, but you still need to check it every so often and give it a punch down.
- Now, listen up! It’s time for baking. Once your dough has risen as much as it will, bring a baking board and flatten a ball of dough using a wooden rolling pin to form several flat rounds once your dough has risen as much as it will.
- Place each piece on a heated skillet and set the loaf to cook for a couple of minutes.
- After that, flip it over to cook the other side until it’s golden brown.
Good to know: Egyptians still use the same technique to cook their bread, “Aish Baladi,” but they add lighter flour than emmer to make it puffier, more like a pita. So, if you intend to get a slight rise, speak to an Egyptian guy to tell you what kind of flour is used (Kidding! Just use white flour to prepare if you want to get puffy loaves!)
- Now, it’s time to taste what we have baked! Let us know in the comments what you think of ancient bread.
How to Perper Feteer Meshaltet (Egyptian Layered Pastry)
One of the delicious traditional pies dating back to Ancient Egypt, feteer meshaltet is a distinctive dish that you can make right now or at your next family gathering. According to some Egyptologists, a feteer meshaltet named Feteer Maltoot used to serve Egyptian gods during this era. Feteer became so popular as a dessert under Muslim rule that the recipe eventually made its way to Europe, where it formed the basis for croissants.
However, the recipe we are about to uncover could differ from our ancestors, but we promise this one will be outwardly delicious. It consists of flaky layered pastries. It can be stuffed with chocolate, ground meat, honey, raisins basted with butter, or even no filling. It will give you the sense of craking with each bite. Its irresistible taste will hook you for good.
But what is exactly feteer meshaltet? It’s a layered pie (layers upon layers) roasted with loads of ghee or clarified butter. It’s one of the Ancient Egyptian food recipes that everyone falls in love with.
And in Egypt, producing feteer meshaltet requires a particular set of talents; they are not culinary skills so much as they are a display of talent. It is true that the chef kneads, then waves the dough in the air, then bakes, and finally flattens the dough out. Oh, interesting! But don’t give up; you don’t need to make this rhythmic movement when cooking feteer! (If you want to display showtime and are sure about the outcome, we encourage you to give it a try but please be sure that you will leave the dough stuck to your hair or a ceiling!)
After checking out our recipe instructions, you will find it’s anything but easy!
Ingredients you need to prepare Ancient Egypt’s feteer:
We will not count on any filling as we try to recall the Ancient Egypt recipe. Instead, just plain feteer, and we will see how you can serve it.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour or plain flour
- 1 ½ cup water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter *Please keep better unsalted to get the same desired feteer
Side tip: This recipe can be done with melted ghee as well.
- ¼ cup oil
Feteer Meshaltet Recipe
- In a deep pot, place the flour and salt, pour one cup of water and start showing your kneading skills. If you find the dough is not finely incorporated or dry, add more water slowly until you get the desired consistency. *The perfect consistency is when your dough is elastic and stretchy. And to taste it, pull it upward. If it isn’t worn, then you are on the right track.
- Knead the dough for 10 minutes by hand.
Side tip: The kneading process can be done manually or using an electric one *a metal bow attached to a mixer.
- Leave the dough to breathe for just 10 minutes and then take 6 or 8 balls out from it depending on the size of feteer you desire.
- Over medium-high heat, place ghee or butter on a pot and once it’s completely melted, turn off the heat.
- Pour the butter into the dough so that they are fully covered and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. *If you think it’s a considerable amount of ghee, you can drizzle ½ cup of it but be sure that all dough pieces are ghee-coated.
- Bring each piece of dough and roll it so thin, gently and slowly, that you can see the baking board or a flat surface through it.
Pro chef tip: It would be preferable to flatten your dough on a marble surface, and don’t forget to drip ghee on top to avoid your so-called feteer from becoming stuck before you even begin kneading.
- Make a square out of the dough by folding it in half and slathering it with ghee between the two layers.
Side tip: For more details about the folding process, fold the outer third of the dough over the center third, then brush with melted ghee between each third. Then fold the other third to the other center and fold the final third over the middle last third. And every time, the ghee is found between folded thirds.
- Please take a second ball as we have done with the first. Place the old one with the central seam down on the new one. Don’t forget to brush with more butter between two layers to make the folding easier. And let it rest for a couple of minutes.
- Repeat the steps with the third and fourth dough. Now that we have one ready lay it seam-side down in your baking dish and brush it with extra butter before heating. If you have remaining dough balls, you need to keep the same steps to make a second layered pie.
- Press down the dough gently to spread the feteer and fold it well across the baking dish.
- Set aside for at least 10 minutes in the preheated oven until the pastry begins to puff up. After that, put on the broiler to get a golden brown finish. When you have reached the proper form and color, remove the dish from the oven and coat it with another butter brush before covering it tightly to prevent the feteer from drying out.
Side tip: If you are willing to cook filled feteer, you can add whatever you want when folding the first and second thirds. Here are some ideas for filling:
- Crushed coconut and raisins.
- Some fruits like banana and kiwi.
- Cheese for a savory taste.
- Even chocolate.
How to serve feteer? It’s a good question. We do plain feteer with honey, jam, and salted cheese in Egypt! So yes, we eat it sweet and salty at the same time. However, I sometimes just eat a piece of feteer with a cup of tea.
I love to eat stuffed feteer without any additions. Depending on your preference, you can also put slices of tomato and cucumbers on the side.
History of Ancient Egyptian Food: Bread (How Ancient Egyptian Ate Bread)
Unlike what we think today of food, Ancient Egyptians baked loaded amounts of bread to make their dead happy when they were transformed into the other world, just as they believed. That’s why when noble tombs were discovered; archaeologists found many sorts of sustenance like loaves of bread, jars of honey, beer, and baskets of grains, “which would help dead people to continue harvest in the other world, mmm… interesting!”
The amount of food left in tombs determined a person’s level in society’s hierarchy. So there is no surprise when you find that King Tut’s tomb contained 48 boxes of mummified meat, including ducks, geese, antelope, and veal.
Back to bread, the diet of almost Ancient Egyptian food was mainly based on beer and bread. Not just that, it’s documented that the hard workers in the ancient kingdom were rewarded with beer and bread at the end of a workday. *Ten loaves of bread and a gallon of beer! yeah, it’s too much that a graffiti on a pyramid referring to workers as Drunkards of Menkaure!”
Vegetables in Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egyptians were not survived on consuming carbohydrates only. Other side dishes were on the table since Egypt has been blessed with fertile soil, which has allowed them to produce an abundance of vegetables for use in their daily diet. (Beside bread, for sure)
For example, legumes were widely cultivated throughout the history of the ancient kingdom and considered food for the majority of the labor class. And foul was the king (it still has the same position as popular street food in Egypt). It was cooked by various methods that could be different from how Egyptians prepare it today. However, a traditional ancient Egyptian food a few householders still know today is bissara.
Let’s see who you can prepare bissara in your kitchen.
Recipes from Ancient Egypt Kitchen (Vegetables and Herbs)
What is Bissara All About?
In Ancient Egypt, this dish was a low-class diet, and of course, it serves the main reason till this moment. You can call it a frugal dish that would cost you nothing for preparation, and it’s still yummy, and I bet you would like it, especially if you are vegetarian. It contains cheap ingredients with very easy-peasy steps to put together. And fortunately, it’s super nutritious. This traditional heritage cuisine is as old as the ancient civilization of Egypt. It’s literally stepped into the history.
But what is exactly bissara? It’s a falafel dip! Yes, it could be somewhat wired, but it’s what bissara is all about. So first, we will mix all the falafel ingredients to create a thick pudding, starting with boiling beans or foul, onions, garlic, and a bunch of fresh herbs.
Without further odd, let’s get it right off the bat.
Declamation: this recipe could not be the typical ancient foul dish, but we inspired it from some photos on tombs’ walls and how they generally cooked their food. Just give it a try, and you will be amazed by the outcome.
Attention: there are two different ways of cooking bissara; get stuck to the Egyptian way, not Moroccan, because, of course, Egypt is the origin of any foul dish.
Ingredients you need to prepare Ancient Egypt’s bissara:
- 1 cup peeled and split fava beans “foul.”
Side tip: You need to soak foul for at least 1 hour before heading to the kitchen to prepare this dish. Drain it from the water and set it aside for a while. And please note that split fava beans are different from the whole beans. Be sure to pick the right one from the supermarket.
- ½ cup fresh coarsely-chopped parsley
- ½ cup fresh coarsely-chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup fresh chopped dill *You already know, coarsely chopped.
- 2 sliced- small onions *one is cut in quarters and the other chopped
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dry mint
- 1 teaspoon salt for your taste
- 3 cup water
- 3 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Set a deep pot over medium-high heat and add drained beans, quartered onions, garlic, and fresh herbs.
- Pour water into the pot till the vegetables are fully submerged.
- Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer. And keep stirring occasionally.
- If the beans have souk up all the water, feel free to add more. *Add water slowly, in small batches, and with no more than a ½ cup at a time.
- Once the beans seem tender, turn off the heat and remove the vegetables from the pot and leave them to rest till they cool for a few minutes.
- Finishing your coffee, right! Okay, now place the vegetables in the blender. Process it until it becomes a like-dough texture.
- Transfer the smooth mixture to the pot again and bring them to a boil once again.
- Add extra spices like cumin, salt, and pepper to be liking.
- Keep stirring the beans mixture and after a few minutes, turn off the heat.
- Place a pan over heat after adding three tablespoons of vegetable oil to saute the chopped onions.
- Crisp up the onions by turning them on each side till you get the golden brown color. *Please keep your eye on them so as to not get burnt.
- The bissara is ready to be served; all left is to garnish the dishes with fried onions.
Side tip: Bissara is served cold or hot with some Egyptian bread to get the fullest experience of Ancient Egyptian food. You can just make a green salad dish beside. Alternatively, slice a tomato and season it with salt, pepper, and chopped garlic to taste.
Back to vegetables on the Ancient Egyptian table, the upper class consumed different veggies to keep them healthy and fit, like lettuce, watercress, dill, parsley, leeks, cauliflower, melons, gourds, celery, radish, and cabbage. Thanks to the Nile River, a list could be endless, which enabled them to survive and cultivate a wide collection of plants and herbs.
And of course, garlic and green onions (scallions) were widely consumed in the Ancient Egyptian civilization as some writing rollers have alluded that workers used to eat a number of garlic cloves daily to give them the strength to build such impressive temples and pyramids. Not just that, it had used for medicinal purposes.
And lentils had positioned themselves as one of the most popular vegetables in Ancient Egypt as they have found some lentils cooked balls in one of the Thebes’ tombs. All of them came with chickpeas, and peas served as a primary source of protein.
Moreover, there are some sorts of vegetables you couldn’t find anywhere else, like Egyptian cucumber (‘ atta), which can be consumed in some parts of rural communities in Egypt until now. It is part of the food scene on special occasions.
During this period, one of the most popular nuts, the tiger nut (hab al-‘aziz) served dried, roasted, or even fresh. It belongs to the papyrus family and has been found in some tombs in Luxor. And it was provided as a snack to royalty, which is why it was given the name “Hab al-Aziz,” which means “nutty for nobles” in Arabic. Egyptians continue to produce and eat this ancient crop in a few small villages.
Ancient Egyptians were most likely to eat vegetables boiled, and some noble classes preferred fresh vegetables. And one of the recipes that are still in existence today that we learned about through the writings of the Ancient Egyptians is khobiza, a soup cooked from leafy vegetables called mallow that is more akin to molokhia in texture with a thicker consistency. It’s nutritious, flavorful, and beneficial to one’s diet. But, most significantly, it is made composed of cheap ingredients. So let’s get down on it and figure out how to make khobiza.
What is Khobiza All About?
As we said, it’s a Middle Eastern soup or a maza. With such simple ingredients and steps, you can make khobiza as an appetizer that goes with any kind of meat or even the main course of your meal if you are looking for new recipes without gaining extra calories. This green side dish combines roasted garlic and green leaves with a sprinkling of cilantro. Then you will mix all the ingredients together and place them into a homemade favorable chicken broth with a handful of cooked rice. If you need to serve it as a starter, you will need to add drizzles of tangy lemon juice and skip the broth. And don’t let me start! Just imagine how this soup is packed full of nutritional components.
Nonetheless, no one relies on this recipe any more, but today we will recall one of the oldest traditional dishes in the Middle East. We’ve already eaten a lot of chicken and other meats in our household. We’ll now return to nature.
How can you get mallow leaves? If you live outside the Middle East, it could be hard to find such leafy vegetables. You might need to check them out in the nearby Turkish supermarkets. But they are quickly scooped up at the markets. In this case, swiss chard and baby spinach leaves can do well in this soup in their place.
Side tip: It might not have a great look, but we promise you a delicious and nutrient dish that you would cook for all your significant ones.
Ingredients you need to prepare Ancient Egypt’s khobiza:
- A packet of a bunch of mallow leaves (as we agreed, if you can’t get your hands on mallow, use swiss chard or baby spinach)
- Cilantro (it would be better to depend on fresh chopped cilantro)
- Swiss chard (optional)
- Cooked rice (make it al dente by boiling rice briefly since it will be mixed with the other ingredients over a heat)
- 3 cloves of garlic (fresh is the best as well)
- A pinch of salt and black pepper
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander
- Homemade chicken broth (however, the soup stock works fine for this recipe)
Side tip: If you want to prepare it as a side dish, there is no need for rice and soup. Instead, we need some sliced onions and a tablespoon of olive oil.
- We start with cooking a cup of rice if you don’t have any leftovers. (If you dig deep enough in your refrigerator, I’m sure you’ll find some.) And here is a quick way to make the rice done: bring a pot of 1 ⅕ cup of water to boil, and place rice inside it after adding a teaspoon of salt. Turn the heat to the lowest setting when the rice soaks up the water. After 3 minutes, remove the pot from the stove. Set it aside.
- Bring the mallow leaves and cut off all stems from them. Rinse the mallow very well and make sure that it doesn’t contain any grits, drain it thoroughly from the water, and set it aside. *Depending on how dirty the mallow is, you may need to repeat this step a few times to get it completely clean.
- In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Then add the khobiza, swiss chord, and cilantro for about 5 minutes. Then drain the vegetables from the water and let them rest.
- After 30 minutes, place the boiled greens into a food processor.
Pro chef tip: It’s better to only depend on the food processor, not a blender, to get the right consistency; if you don’t have it, you may use a blender for a shorter period to avoid making it much smoother.
- Saute the chopped garlic cloves on medium-high heat until they turn golden brown.
- Now, add coriander and fry them with the garlic.
- Meanwhile, you need to bring the broth to a boil and then add ground greens and cooked rice.
- Now add the fried garlic and stir the soup for a few minutes. Once the appropriate scent has been released, remove it from the heat and cover it tightly with a lid allowing it to sit for at least 15 minutes.
Side tip: A khobiza salad was not the typical Ancient Egyptian food (To be honest, we don’t have any foodways documented on the walls of tombs -or at least so far-we rely on the raw materials they possessed). However, we will provide you with a quick way to make it done; place a pan over medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil, add the slices of onions and fry them for 2 minutes. Now, add mallow leaves, followed by salt and pepper. Next, stir the leaves thoroughly and add the lemon juice. The main purpose is to make khobiza coated with a marinade and serve it instantly.
Pro chef tip: Leftovers can be placed in the refrigerator for a couple of days. If you want to freeze the khobiza to eat it further, you may stock the blended vegetables in a freezer-friendly bag for later use.
Honey and Sweets
When referring to Ancient Egypt, we don’t take about a 10 or 20-year kingdom. Actually, it lasted for more than 3000 years. Take into your consideration all changes that have occurred during this long era. Of course, preparation methods had been changed throughout the age of this civilization. They could come across more sophisticated culinary techniques and cultivation strategies. Still, most significantly, the climate changes had a significant impact on their daily routine and the crops they were able to cultivate in the first place.
But in terms of sweets and treats, honey ranked high among other things. It was most likely expensive, and it wasn’t available for worker classes at specific periods. They had known so much about beekeeping and drawn particular attention to make it pure and sweety. Not just that, they had been attached spiritually to honey which was believed it was the god Ra’s tears that turned into bees. (Interesting!) Many images have shown how they used basic materials to enhance their skills in apiculture.
Ancient Egyptians became pros in the honey industry throughout the years, allowing all classes to get hands-on. It was produced at a large scale for everything from sweetening food to even paying taxes by submitting honey gallons. Egyptians also knew so much about the health benefits of honey; some images pictured how they used the honey to cure injuries. Besides serving as a beverage at various points in Egyptian history, honey was a common ingredient when it came to sweetening dried fruits like raisins or figs and dates.
Moreover, they used honey for sweetening bread and pastries. And here is the surprise, according to some archaeologists, Ancient Egyptians were the first people who made homemade marshmallows. They used mallow leaves, then boiled the root pulp with money till it became a think dough. After that, they drained the mallow mixture from the water, left them to cool, and shaped pieces to serve them.
Additionally, honey was used to bast meat like gazelle and ducks.
In a nutshell, honey was used to moisten any dish, and it had played a significant political role in Ancient Egypt. The bee was a symbol for kings. Since they acknowledged that honey is a nutrient component, they infused food with it making it an essential part of everyone’s diet. Honey was their way to expel evil spirits that caused diseases and aliments.
Ancient Egypt is well-known for a lot of things. Let’s say the Sphinx, the Pyramids of Giza, and the Nile River. But you probably will not mention its fertile land. It seemed difficult for everyone to count on all the various fruits you can find here. And it was the same during Ancient Egypt when peasants learned so much about the soil and farmed so many delicious fruits. And fruits were consumed as sweeteners in their recipes, as we noted before. First, fruits were used in funerary events. After that, Egyptians began to see the advantages of producing these tasty plants along the Nile’s banks, and they did so diligently.
Due to the embalming technique, we have compiled enough knowledge of some available fruits, like apples, pomegranates, dates, grapes, sycamores, nabk berries, and figs.
But wait, we want to stay for a while to explain how grapes were so important to Egyptians. There were different kinds and colors. They used every ounce of their expertise to get the most out of this fantastic fruit. Everything from fresh to dried to squeezed may be found here. Coffin’s discoveries revealed that raisins were used to sweeten bread and boost the flavor of the wine.
Coconuts were also available but for only the wealthy in the old kingdom. And it’s possible that they were brought in from neighboring empires, and it was an expensive product.
One of the most common fruits in this great civilization was a dom, just like a brownstone with a hard outer texture found in the royal kings. Along with dates, domes were part of the funerary scene.
At some point, Egyptians baked doms cakes for other special occasions. But the preparation method for making such cakes is still unknown.
All of them served fruits fresh and dried. Furthermore, they used some of them (mainly pomegranate) to craft jewelry and amulets.
What’s more, citrus fruits like Egyptian plum were present in the diet of Egyptians.
Most importantly, they had mastered making a broad collection of beverages and wines.
As we said, beer was consumed a lot in Ancient Egypt during different times of the day. It was widely consumed by peasants, kings, and even gods. (Some photos have portrayed that children drank beer on some occasions) Actually, there is a considerable debate about what kind of beer Egyptians produced. It is relatively far from contemporary beer, but it was fermented grape juice anyway.
How did they produce beer? Once Egyptians discovered the main complement of making wine, they prepared it from anything they got their hands on. After that, they delved further into winemaking with a great deal of zeal, as seen by the paintings on the walls of several tombs. It was made of grape with a sufficient amount of sugar (Honey and syrup from other fruits were used instead of sugar, which looked nothing like today’s sugar) or scratch.
Archaeologists believe that Ancient Egyptians consumed beer instead of Nile water which was not clean enough to drink directly.
They made palm wine from palm trees. This type of wine was so good that they used it as a cleanser in the embalming process.
They used pomegranates, poppy seeds, and carob trees, not just dates and grapes.
“Egyptians lived a life on a high!” that’s what I have heard from the tour guide during my visit to Luxor, and I think it rings so true as I see their master skills to prepare wine didn’t stop there, though, or anywhere. Consider what it would be like, to begin with, bread and beer every day! Yes, that was precisely how Egyptians kicked start to their days.
When did it all start? No one exactly knew when beer or wine became a daily diet for all Egyptians, and there is no clear evidence that proves the origins of wine. Some Egyptologists referred that it has imported to the kingdom before 3,000 BCE since they have found out some relics referring that some Mesopotamia communities were engaged in producing wine. But Ancient Egyptians often put their own spin on these beloved beverages creating a wide range of beer coming with different pleasant and fragrant flavors.
Consequently, they had mastered the art of preparing wine as a laxative and using it to put an end to various digestive ailments.
Since Ancient Egypt depended on the Nile River for living and agriculture, peasants made all efforts to provide kings with diverse crops used to make the finest recipe. As a result, Ancient Egypt was a wealthy nation, and they cultivated not only essential plants but also some fancy items.
They farmed different sorts of herbs and produced spices to season food. A lot of species were available in the ancient kingdom like salt (they elicited it from lakes and the sea,) aniseed, thyme, coriander, fenugreek (used in baking bread), cinnamon, cumin, mustard, dill, marjoram, and fennel. However, during the tough times when the Nile Rivers did not rise enough to irrigate lands, the royal classes imported some herbs, and they became restricted to the wealthy.
They made wide use of spices for culinary and medicinal purposes. For example, they believed that coriander was used to present romantic moments and they used to boost aphoristic. On the other way, cumin was a symbol of faithfulness, and at some point, they prescribed it for digestive issues. Indeed, they were correct.
Finally, they used cinnamon for the embalming process, and it was the most expensive condiment.
What archaeological researchers have found on the walls of tombs was invaluable in showing us how poor, rich, and even peasants consumed their share of meat. Poultry was popular in Ancient Egypt; they had acquainted many secrets about animal husbandry. The poor also mastered haunting many kinds of animals to make feasts for gods and on special occasions. Mostly, Ancient Egyptians likened red meat to some birds like geese, ducks, cranes, pigeons, partridge, swans, doves, and even quail and ostriches. Pigeons and other delicate birds were restricted to the rich people and royal classes; meanwhile, other wild animals were available to the hard-earned workers.
Not just that, these people were designed specific shops for butchering, like many images depicted on their temples. The primary and most valuable source of meat was caws, just like today, followed by mutton and goat. Even pork had been shared in the food scene in Ancient Egypt, and it was eaten by the lower classes, according to some bones found in the graves belonging to workers’ tombs. But pigs’ meat was prohibited for priests.
Even their butchering techniques have been shown on the tombs’ walls, how they cut cow throats and cleaned up animals from intestines and offal and then pulled out rib cages.
The archaeologists have also found caws with smashed heads, and they suggested that Ancient Egyptian food definitely introduced cows’ brains to their food scene as a prized source of protein— it’s still served in Egypt.
There is no documented evidence about how they cooked meat, but it may be served grilled, boiled, or even salted to keep bacteria away from it.
Most likely, the Ancient people milked cows to produce other products like ghee, cheese, and cream—we don’t have clear evidence of the origin of cheese in Egypt. Still, undoubtedly, many milking scenes are pictured on several temples.
Plus, Egyptians in this mighty civilization took advantage of eggs from ducks, geese, and swans; however, we don’t know so much about how they ate them or used them for baking purposes.
In Ancient Egypt, the chicken was a rare and exotic food, but some researchers believe it may have made its way to the new kingdom where it was only used sparingly.
Thanks to the Nile River, fish was a staple component of Ancient Egyptian food. It was present on the dining table consuming it roasted, salted, or dried. And they were pros in fish curing, and this job was assigned to professionals like temple officials. Some species were prohibited and not allowed to be consumed.
Today, Egyptians have recalled their ancestral secrets for salting fish till to make it stinky “Feseekh” They still eat it on Easter.
Side tip: However, Feseekh is not very safe to eat, and the health ministry every year advises or even pleas the public to stop consuming this dish since it could be fatal, it’s still a flourishing industry in Egypt, and many Egyptians have decided to revive Ancient Egyptians rituals by eating this fermented fish to welcome spring by their way, which is a tradition that dates back to the Pharaonic period.
From the Great Pyramids to the Sphinx, Egypt is a foodie paradise; it’s a country to impress everyone. And we are sure that many mysteries are about to uncover throughout decades. So keep an eye on it and pick up some tips from this world-class culture.