When you look at the country of Egypt, you see large areas of dry hot desert. The Egyptians did have one thing going for them: The River Nile. Each year, the river would flood, covering areas with rich thick silt and mud. This was necessary for them because it brought fertilizers to the land. The Nile water was used for the water needed for farmlands, and this meant that the ancient Egyptians had a lot of food to grow and eat.
Evidence from pictures and hieroglyphs show that Egyptians used their farmland to grow a number of crops. The most important was wheat. They grew wheat and then ground it up into flour to make bread. All of the people of Egypt ate bread, whether poor or rich. The second most important crop was barley. It might surprise you to know that the ancient Egyptians drank a lot of beer and that is made of barley. One of the main reasons they drank beer was because fresh water was not as easy to come by as it is now. The Egyptians grew pomegranates, grapes and plums for both eating and making wine.
The land around the Nile was rich in wildlife and the wealthy ancient Egyptians hunted and ate beef, mutton, goat and a variety of fish from the Nile. They also ate poultry: duck, crane, heron, pigeon and goose. The poor Egyptians didn’t eat meat that often, but did eat poultry and fish. Fish, poultry and meat were boiled or roasted and they used a number of seasonings for flavor, including salt, cumin, pepper, fennel, dill, sesame and coriander. If they weren’t going to eat poultry immediately, they preserved it by drying and salting it.
With such fertile farmland, they could grow a lot of vegetables and fruits. Some of their favorites seemed to be radishes, onions, garlic, turnips, beans, leeks, lentils, and lettuce.
A variety of vegetables were grown and eaten by the ancient Egyptians including onions, leeks, garlic, beans, lettuce, lentils, cabbages, radishes and turnips. They ate fruit as a dessert and they included melons, plums, figs, grapes, raisins and dates.
There isn’t a lot of information on the number of meals that were eaten by the Egyptians. Based on the pictures, it seems that the wealthy people might eat two to three meals per day including a morning meal, a bigger lunch and later in the evening, a dinner meal. Most of the population would probably have only eaten a breakfast of bread and then in the early afternoon a main meal that included bread and beer
There are images that show pictures of banquets from both the New and Old Kingdom time periods. The banquets started in the afternoon and unless they were married, men and women sat separately. Seating at the banquet was all based on social class, with those of the highest class sitting on chairs, slightly lower class people could sit on stools and the very lowest class sat on the floor. Everyone was supplied hand washing basins before the meal started, as well as perfumes. Fat in cones were laid out – to prevent bugs and insects. There was always a lot of food at the banquets, representing almost everything that the ancient Egyptians had available from poultry, meat, vegetables and fruit. In many cases they made stews that were served with a lot of bread, fruit and fresh vegetables. They made sweet cakes out of dates and honey.
Ancient Egyptians grew and stored much of their grain and preserved meats in case of drought and famine. Beer and wine was also stored in special glazed pots. Herbs and spices were always at hand to flavor their food. Thanks to the River Nile, the ancient Egyptians could grow much of what they wanted to eat. Over the centuries they developed incredible watering canals that allowed the river water to extend beyond the banks of the Nile and both water and fertilize the fields.