Food of the Ancient Egyptians

Because Egypt was very dry, the Egyptians relied on the yearly flooding of the Nile to create fertile lands that yielded crops that fed the masses. Perhaps not as plentiful as food is today in most societies, the ancient Egyptians seldom went hungry.

Unlike other ancient cultures, food was usually plentiful in ancient Egypt.  The Egyptians relied on the yearly flooding of the Nile to create fertile lands that yielded crops that fed the masses.  Scenes of animal husbandry and butchery, were a fixture on the walls of Egyptian tombs.  Also popular are scenes of fisherman, fishing and other art that demonstrates the preparation of fish for eating along with foul being prepared for meals. In ancient Egyptian art, the preparation of food is a much more popular subject than its consumption.  However, lavish banquets were not uncommon especially amongst noblemen.  Goose and beef were popular dishes, but were very likely limited to those with the wealth to afford such delicacies.

Ordinary Egyptians could expect a healthy dose of fish in their diet as it was readily available.  After the fish were gutted, they were often preserved in salt or dried. Fisherman had to reserve some of their catch as payment to Egyptian government officials, but were allowed to keep the remainder for food and trade.

When it came to preparing the food, Egyptian women were largely responsible for the task. A basic Egyptian dining room probably consisted of a low table and chairs. It was commonplace for Egyptians to seat themselves on the floor for meals. It’s believed that Egyptians preferred to eat with their hands, not utensils.

Vegetables and fruit were abundant in Egypt. Leeks, onions, celery, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, beans and lentils were abundant. Spices like marjoram, coriander and dill were often used by Egyptians to improve the taste of food. They enjoyed grapes, figs, pomegranates, dates and berries.

The Egyptians made wine from grapes as well as dates, figs, and pomegranates. Beer made from wheat was a popular libation often flavored with fresh fruit.

A Greek scholar named Athenaeus who journeyed to Egypt in the 3rd century wrote that Egyptian beer was very strong and an aided in the enjoyment of song and dance.  The Delta region and western desert were populated with many wineries.

While perhaps not as plentiful as food is today in most societies, the ancient Egyptians seldom went hungry.


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