Happy Friday everyone! I’m trying something a little different on the blog today. In an effort to ‘show my work‘, I’m going to begin posting some of the notes and research that I’ve done while writing, so that anyone interested might get a bit of a look into my headspace, and where the things I put down on the page come from. Also, perhaps it might be useful to any other authors wanting to write in the same areas.
I don’t think this will happen with any regularity, just when I feel like I have a significant amount of notes on a given topic. Of course if my understanding of a topic expands or changes, I’ll try to update that as well so that these posts reflect that expansion.
Ancient Egyptian food was naturally something I was concerned with while writing Narmer and the God-Beast, as well as my (as of yet) untitled/unpublished Egypt and Dinosaurs novel. If you’re interested in developments for either of those works, please sign up for my newsletter. It’s been focused on my Russian fairy tale setting for quite a while now, but I think we’ll be returning to ancient Egypt in 2023 . . .
Anyway, please leave your thoughts in the comments section, and enjoy some info about Ancient Egyptian food!
Ancient Egyptians enjoyed a wide variety of foods based on their locality and social status. Bread and beer were staples among the workers constructing the pyramids, and also had connotations within the ancient Egyptian religion as tomb offerings and delicacies at religious festivals.
Poorer families likely survived on what they could catch or grow themselves such as fish (pickled and salted), wild poultry (fowl), dates and other vegetables.
Wealthy families had more options including meats (beef), and other more exotic animals such as ostrich.
Since there is little to no surviving textual evidence or menus from ancient times, much of what we’ve learned about ancient Egyptian cuisine has come from scenes depicted on the walls inside the pyramids, painstakingly recorded to ensure that rituals, accomplishments, and important ceremonies would endure in the Fields of Aaru.
In one scene, from the tomb of Rekhmire (a vizier), shows figures making the loaves (hab al-‘aziz) by grinding the nuts, mixing them with honey, and shaping the mixture into conical loaves.
In this instance, the cakes were baked to please the sun god Amun, but the tubers were also prepared for use in medicine, perfume, and enjoyed roasted atop a fire, or boiled in beer.
Bread and Beer
Barley, spelt, or emmer wheat provided the basic material for bread which was leavened by sourdough or yeast.
Grains (mostly barley) were mashed and fermented for beer. In terms of practicality, beer was one solution/alternative to drinking water from the Nile River which was not always safe.
Fruits and Vegetables
Vegetables – onions, leeks, garlic, and lettuce.
Legumes – lupines, chickpeas, broad beans and lentils
Fruit – melon, fig, date, palm coconut, apple, and pomegranate.
Hunted for sustenance by the lower classes and for sport by the upper classes. Often included:
- Fish – Caught in the Nile River, considered important source of protein for commoners. Eaten less frequently by wealthy (who had greater access to domestic animals listed below).
- Rodents – Mice were eaten (again for the poor)
- Hedgehogs – recipes call for them to be baked. (poor)
Domesticated animals provided dairy products, meat, meat by-products, and blood for sacrifice to the Ancient Egyptian Gods resulting in blood sausages. Beef and pork fat were used for cooking. Domesticated animals included:
- Oxen – beef? More expensive, and often only consumed for celebratory occasions or ritual meals.
- Sheep – Considered an abundant meat source, and often eaten.
- Goats – Considered an abundant meat source, and often eaten.
- Swine/pigs – Considered an abundant meat source, and often eaten.
Very important to Ancient Egyptians, as a source of food, and also as a critical part of their religion. Types of birds (and their eggs) consumed:
- Chickens* – *Not present until 4th or 5th centuries BCE
Oils and Spices
Oil was derived from ben-nuts. Egyptians also used sesame, linseed and castor oils.
Honey used as a sweetener, as well as vinegar.
Seasonings included salt, juniper, aniseed, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek and poppyseed.
Wine – Grape cultivation was adopted from other parts of the Mediterranean in about 3,000 BCE though Egyptians modified the practices for their local climate. Primarily reds, and mainly used for ceremonial purposes as well as enjoyment of the upper classes.
Recreate the Ancient Egyptian Recipes Painted on Tomb Walls – https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/ancient-egyptian-recipes
Ancient Egyptian Cuisine and Food Habits – https://www.thoughtco.com/foods-in-ancient-egypt-118392