The ancient world of Egypt was known for it’s prodigious culture, the ever standing pyramids and the sphinx, the Pharaohs and the once a majestic civilization that resided by the banks of the river Nile.
And when it comes to the what culinary habits of the people in ancient Egypt, it is doubtless that they ate much better than people in any other ancient civilization of the world, even more so if the same timeline is considered for comparison. Much of the information about what the ancient Egyptians ate and drank comes from pictures on tomb walls, offering trays and foods left in the tombs, as well as a few scrolls of hieroglyphic writing that show further insight on the matter. . Most common of art works are about growing, finding or making food. Many tomb walls also show pictures depicting people hunting, fishing and working in the fields. Here is a list of top 10 popular ancient Egyptian food that people in the ancient Egypt preferred eating in their daily lives.
10. Poultry products
The poultry foods were equally popular among both the rich and the peasant people who lived in the ancient Egypt. The most commonly consumed poultry animals included the likes of Geese, Swan, Ducks, Quail, Crane, Pigeon and even Doves and Ostriches. Pigeons, Geese, Ducks and other tamed poultry were considered more popular among the richest of the Ancient Egyptians, and Crane, Swan, Wild Ostriches would end up being hard earned kills for the poor ones. Eggs from Ducks, Swans and Geese were also regularly consumed by people. Most of the times, the poultry kills were not eaten as soon as it was produced, but rather preserved with seasonings for a longer period of consumption.
9. Milk and other dairy products
The advent of agriculture and farming saw an increased and sustained practices of cattle raising in the ancient Egyptian civilization. Among the cattle, bulls were exclusively used for the purpose of farming, but other livestock cattle like goat, sheep, cow were raised for the milk they provided with. The raising of cattle was very popular, and the size of the herd would represent the prestige of the owners, as well as that of the temple that worshipped those cattle. Apart from consuming milk, other dairy products such as curd, whey and milk cream was also used by people as popular delicacies given by the cattle. But based on the temple they followed, certain types of dairy products including milk were forbidden as certain places.
8. Vegetables, lots of them
Vegetables were eaten by those in ancient Egypt as a complement to the regular meals. Every year, due to the flooding of the river Nile, much of the land surrounding the river used to be fertile and ready for vegetation. Since, most of the poor families settled around these banks, vegetables were customary food products consumed by them. These were equally popular among the well placed Egyptians as well – vegetables being consumed along with other special meals such as meat and bread. Onions, garlic, leek, lentils, cabbage, radish, turnip, lupines, tomatoes, cucumber were among the popularly grown and consumed vegetables
Again, since a lot of land was made fertile courtesy with annual floodings of the river Nile, a number of fruits were grown and eaten by the Egyptians. Granted that it is rather difficult to account for all varieties of fruits that used to be consumed in ancient Egypt, there is known documentations of fruits high in sugar and protein being more popular among them. Apple, olive and pomegranate trees were brought to Egypt somewhere around the reign of the Hyksos or later. Grapes and figs were also popular fruits whenever available. Coconuts on the other hand were among the imported luxury fruits only afforded by the rich Egyptians. The presence of many such fruit in the daily diet of people can be referred out through the remains found in several tombs.
6. A wide variety of Juice
Though not as widely popular as other food products that used to be made from fruits (namely beer and wine), fruit juice was also enjoyed by a number of people back in the ancient Egypt. Citrusy fruits which had a sweetening taste were primarily used to be consumed as juice. Most popular were the grapes and figs, which the Egyptians would steep until every drop of juice was drained out of them. Other than honey, the syrup made of unfermented grape juice and other fruits such as raisins, dates, figs, carob and even the root of the Chuba, a plant growing in the marshes of Delta which gave a nice sweet flavor, were also used for sweetening purposes.
5. Food additives
The people in ancient Egypt used a lot of food additives and seasonings. First up, the oil. Egyptians used a lot of oil in cooking major meals. They had 21 different names of different vegetable oils obtained from resources like sesame, castor plants, flax seed, radish seed, horseradish, safflower and colocynth. Horseradish oil was known to have been more popular. They also preferred a lot of spices like salt, aniseed, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, fenugreek, marjoram, mustard and thyme. Sugar itself did not appear in ancient Egypt until many more years down the line, but sweeteners like syrups made of dates, grapes and figs were used for sweetening purposes.
It is assumed, though not widely supported by evidences, that some easily available meat sources such as fish and poultry had had to be regular in the meal table for the poor people,but Egyptologists believe that it was for the most part the rich people who regularly feasted on meat. Apart from game hunted in the Delta or the desert, people kept various kinds of domesticated animals, some exclusively as sources of meat, such as geese, some breeds of cattle and, until the New Kingdom, Oryx antelopes for temple offerings. Beef was generally more expensive and would at most have been available once or twice a week, and then mostly for the royalty. The poor preferred poultry such as geese, ducks, quails and cranes, which saw a turnaround when domestication started from the time of the New Kingdom. Most of the edible fish from Nile were consumed, with exception of species that were connected to the Egyptian God Osiris.
Wine and ancient Egypt have a very rich history. Wine was known to be consumed by the Egyptians as early as 3000 BCE. The Egyptian word for wine – ‘jrp’ predates any other known moniker to have been used for wine. By the time of the 18th dynasty, wine had become a popular consumer product in ancient Egypt with both red and white wines available to common people.
To make wine, they picked a bunch of grapes and squeezed all of the juice out by stepping on them in a trough big enough to hold at least six men. This mixture was sealed in a clay pot with the date and vineyard almost exactly like today. For much of the ancient Egyptian history, wine was mostly consumed at the court of the Pharaohs. They even appointed an official as wine-taster. Wine was also a common drink in the menus of rich and powerfulful of the ancient Egyptians.
Bread was an integral food item in the ancient Egyptian diet. But the bread they ate differs in many ways from the bread we are used to eating today. Because of the crude utensils used in making bread, several unwanted quantities such as quartz, feldspar, mica and other ferromagnesian minerals used to get mixed up into the flour, along with possible germs and other foreign bodies. Once the flour was obtained, they would make bread by mixing dough, kneading it with both hands or even feet in large dough kneading containers. To add some flavor, additives such as yeast, salt, spices, milk and sometimes eggs were mixed up right before bread was cut into baking pieces. When the bread was all ready and fresh to eat, it would always be rougher and harder because of all these mixtures. Regardless, bread made up the biggest chunk of food habit in ancient Egypt.
Along with bread, beer was the most popular staple in ancient Egypt, and people drank beer on a daily basis. Infact beer was the preferred drink of humans and gods, of rich and power, of grown ups and even children. Be it the first meal of the day, or the last supper of the night, beer was always a part of it. No wonder with so much booze in the daily diet, almost all the Egyptians used to live feeling high.Beer, together with bread, oil and vegetables, and some added spices, was an important part of the wage workers received from their employers. The standard daily ration during Pharaonic times was two jars containing somewhat more than two litres each. It was supposed to be a healthier drink option when compared to water drawn from rivers or canal which, more often than not, were polluted.
It is clear from the above list that people in ancient Egypt had commendably good food habits with a variety of food items available in their daily diets. From the riches, to the poor, to the workers and the ones into farming and agriculture, regardless of the differences in the quality of food they used to enjoy, almost all of them used to be well fed, with one or more option for food in their hand. Food was baked, boiled, grilled, stewed, fried and even roasted and then served along with beer or occasionally wine, along with other seasonings. And it remains an obvious fact that staples and foods that prevailed in the ancient Egypt have had significant impact in the food habits of generations of civilizations to come in the years to follow.