Eat like an Ancient Egyptian

We know a lot about the Ancient Egyptians, thanks to this great ancient civilisation. Their desire and propagandist need to disclose what they did was paramount, especially for the pharaohs. They made sure their successes were touted everywhere. Rameses II was particularly good at promoting what a powerful and good ruler he was, even when the war he waged on the Hittites wasn’t a victorious campaign. If it wasn’t for the first pharaoh, Menes, of the 1st Dynasty to the Ptolemaic period, the last ruling pharaoh Cleopatra, who recorded everything, we’d know very little about this dynamic civilisation. Thank goodness, they did!

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A depiction of the royal bakery from an engraving in the tomb of Ramesses III in the Valley of the Kings. There are many types of loaves, including ones that are shaped like animals. 20th dynasty.

The Ancient Egyptians had a very healthy diet; it was low-fat and high in fibre that included a lot of grains. During my research, I came across surprising information. The Egyptians made hard lollies (candy) from honey, spices and citrus fruits and along with their counterparts in India, they made ice! They discovered this as early as 3,000 BCE and realised water would freeze during evaporation when temperatures dropped suddenly. This is a natural occurring phenomenon in dry climates.

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Agricultural scenes of threshing, a grain store, harvesting with sickles, digging, tree-cutting and ploughing from the tomb of Nakht, 18th Dynasty Thebes Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2416357

While travelling through Egypt in the 6th century BCE, Evan and his companions would have eaten a lot of fish, especially as they used a barge to get from Memphis to Thebes. Other items they’d have purchased at the markets. Here’s what Evan and his companions would have seen at the markets: bread, lentils, cakes, meat, melons, dates, figs, ostrich eggs, olives, pomegranates, honey, onions, pistachios, vegetables, milk, almonds, peas, beans, radishes, and garlic. This is a grocery list that would not look out of place today. For a more comprehensive listing go here.

What type of meats were available? Besides fish, which the Egyptians consumed the most, and if they could afford it, there was meat from cattle, sheep and goats, ducks, pigeons, antelopes. Veal and goose were eaten by the more affluent citizens. Pork was also eaten for a time but from the New Kingdom on, the animal was associated with Seth, the god who chopped up his brother Osiris and hence, the Egyptians regarded pigs as unclean.

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Hunting game birds and plowing a field. Depiction on a burial chamber from c. 2700 BC. Tomb of Nefermaat I and his wife Itet. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Egyptian food was flavoured with sea salt, thyme, marjoram, olive oil, and juice extracted from fruits and nuts. Saffron was also used, and produce such as olives, melons, saffron, cucumbers were imported going back as far as 4,000 BCE.

As to beverages, Evan was impressed with the local beers, and there were 5 types with alcohol content higher than today. And not to be out done was the wine that was made from the natural yeast of the grape’s skin and fermented. To sweeten the wine, they used figs.

Food was either baked, stewed, boiled, fried, grilled or roasted (somethings never change).

Here’s recipe from Ancient Egyptian date candy. The recipe was found on a 1600 BCE ostraca. Other Ancient Egyptian recipes, Ta’amia and Ma’moul which are recognisable. (Note: the website has a few spelling errors) And if you want to cook like the Ancient Egyptians, here’s the site for you. Just as a side note: the Ancient Egyptians had bad teeth and dental issues due to the wheat ground by stone mill and the fine particles were mixed in with the flour.

Thank you for your continued support and as always, I look forward to your comments and will respond.

Historical fiction novelist and a secondary teacher, Luciana Cavallaro, burnt out but not done… yet. Subscribe and receive a free eBook Top 10 Blog Posts http://eepurl.com/brIbFf

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15 thoughts on “Eat like an Ancient Egyptian

  1. Nice to catch up with you, Luc, after a long while. I have lived in Egypt, based out of Alexandria for a couple of years, as part of one of several overseas assignments. The predominantly vegetarian content of ancient Egyptian cuisine is a surprise compared to their contemporary meat and fish centric diet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So lovely to catch up with you too, Raj 😀
      That would have been a fascinating few years living there! So much to see. That’s what I love about researching, you come across amazing information.
      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bella,

    Fascinating that the Ancient Egyptians made ice! I don’t think of ice when I think of Egypt and desert heat.

    I admire the amount of research you put into writing books that are truly authentic to the time period, right down to the food Evan would have eaten. You mentioned that veal and goose were eaten by the more affluent citizens, and still today, both of these meats are expensive to purchase.

    Really like the graphics in this post. When I saw the animal bread in the first one, I thought of Easter and the lamb-shaped cake my father would pick up at the bakery. We couldn’t wait to have a big slice after our Easter meal when I was young.

    I checked out the recipes. The Ma’moul recipe looks delicious!

    Thank you for serving up a deliciously interesting post! 🙂

    Rosary xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ciao Bella,
      How amazing the link between the past and your dad purchasing animal shaped cake from the bakery. Goes to show how much things really do not change, even the cost of meat as you mentioned!
      It has been fun and a wonderful journey to learn about what people ate and how some recipes haven’t changed. Of course there are some you just don’t want to bring back, such as the Roman use of garum, rotten fish. I think that should remain with the Romans.
      Grazie xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Truly interesting!.
    The fact that they use salt could be related to the attempt to preserve food: Proof of how intelligent they were…. Also, I found that there could be ressemblances with the Greek Culture and Mediterranean eating habits!… Great post, cara Lucina. Un abbraccio!. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Grazie, cara Aquileana 😀
      I agree that there were close ties across the Mediterranean. The various dishes, spices, herbs and cooking processes did resemble from one culture to the next.
      😀

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