Eat like an Ancient Egyptian

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“Hatshepsut especially enjoyed visiting a field alive with beautiful horned cattle. The Goddess lived in the lovely eyes of cows that regarded her with a humbling indifference, their deep, liquid-black gazes shining drops of the Primordial Waters.

“The kitchen was attached to the eastern side of the residence by a long covered walkway ending in an open courtyard. Cooking fires boiling meat in pans, roasting birds on skewers and grilling fish directly over smoldering embers sent a mouth-watering smoke up toward heaven, fulfilling the Divine appetite for all things sensual and delicious. One side of the courtyard was dominated by clay ovens from which wafted the irresistible aroma of baking bread and date-sweetened cakes… Depending on what kind of bread was desired, salt and other spices were mixed into the batter along with milk, eggs and butter. It took a long time for the dough to swell up but finally it was ready to be baked in balls or in long loaves shaped by conical molds.

“The courtyard opened onto rooms filled with pots used to store dried and pickled meat and fish, fruits and vegetables. The stone jars also contained chick-peas, lentils, green peas, onions and garlic. Milk was kept cool in damp earthenware pots and stored well away from the sunlight. Animal fat was preserved in special adj vessels. An entire room was occupied by jars of salt and spices, including cumin, coriander, cinnamon, dill, marjoram, sage and thyme. There were numerous cooking oils but the most frequently used were sesame oil, safflower oil and olive oil. Ben oil derived from the horseradish tree was the most delectable of all.”

From Truth is the Soul of the Sun – A Biographical Novel of Hatshepsut Maatkare

Fruits and vegetables common to ancient Egypt:

broad beans, cabbage, celery, chickpeas, cucumbers, dates, eggplant, endive, fava beans, fenugreek, figs, garlic, grapes, leeks, lentils, lettuce, melons, mulberries, olives, onions, peas, apricots, plums, pomegranates, radishes, spinach, zucchini
 The ancient Egyptians loved to eat and drink and were the consummate omnivores, enjoying an abundance of fruits and vegetables, duck, goose, quail and other fowl, beef, pork, goat, lamb, wild game such as deer, ibex, antelope and cattle, in addition to countless variety of fish, breads, eggs and cheese. Common seasonings included rosemary, cumin, coriander (Cilantro), garlic, mint, dill, sesame and honey. They drank all kinds of beer and the nobility enjoyed both white and red wine.

“Hatshepsut ignored the buttery leeks and fava beans, concentrating on the plate piled high with duck meat deliciously washed down by pomegranate wine.

“Unless you are planning to sacrifice the evening to Hathor,” Amenmose smiled at her approvingly, “I suggest you also eat some cabbage.”

“Cabbage is boring!” she retorted.

“Not as I instructed it to be prepared for us,” he disagreed, his eyes fixed on the naked hips of the serving girl refilling his cup. “The leaves are stuffed with spinach and raisins, garlic and sweet little onions. Try one.” His smile deepened indulgently as he watched her take a small bite and chew it tentatively.

“Mm.” she moaned appreciatively. “You are right brother. It is delicious.” She quickly devoured the tightly wrapped sheathe.

Hatshepsut had no complaints. She dined on harvest pigeons fattened in the fields, succulent quails stuffed with dried fruits, finely sliced raw beef and whole fish steamed in palm leaves. She drank wine and milk out of gold and silver cups, licked her fingers clean of goose grease, dipped her bread in a garlicky chickpea and sesame paste thinned with the oil of the flaxseed, and indulged in countless honey cakes. Outside the temporary palace coarser loaves of bread were stacked high by the royal bakers and Djehuty—freshly bathed and oiled so he shone like a statue in a fresh white linen kilt and floral collar—supervised their distribution to the queen’s staff and soldiers.

“Also present at the banquet that evening was her principal southern herald, Antef, and his brother, Ahmose, a royal scribe and Overseer of Horns, Hoofs, Feathers and Scales, the Counter of the Bread of Upper and Lower Kemet. Ahmose oversaw the herds of cattle belonging to Amun and Pharaoh that never did a day’s work, for their only role in life was to grace the tables of those people the gods had blessed. The cows of the neter were fed as much bread as they could eat and slaughtered only when they had become almost too fat to walk. Maatkare had made it clear to Ahmose that the less choice cuts of beef were to be distributed to the citizens of Waset according to their needs. No part of a cow was thrown out for even their tongues and brains, their ears and their entrails were delectable to some, and their feet could be boiled in stew while their blood was made into a pudding. Female widows who had no children to care for them were supplied first, followed by families whose father had been crippled in some way or another. Such people regularly received baskets of bread and lentils, cucumbers and leeks, the distribution of which was overseen by the Great Steward of Amun, Senmut, who delegated the actual task to some of his numerous assistants. Life was harder in the city than in villages, where people tended to care for each other better. In the countryside, houses and their vegetable gardens were not as small as they were in town and the hearts of their owners were mysteriously larger. In Waset, the Priests of Horus were flooded with complaints filed by people whose gardens had all been devoured by a neighbor’s goat when it broke free of its post. Pigs roamed the streets consuming rubbish until they were eaten by their owners. Priests and nobles never touched pork for it was obviously unclean. Hatshepsut enjoyed lamb as much as beef but while she was in residence in Waset, she refrained from consuming the ram sacred to Amun.

Necklace designed and made by Diane Vogt-O'Connor

Everywhere she went Maatkare was welcomed with processions of oxen—their horns gilded for the occasion—and fat cows draped with garlands of flowers all walking docilely into the arms of the royal butchers. Even the poorest farmers and fishermen and their wives and children wore kilts and dresses dyed festive colors. Everyone showed off whatever jewelry they possessed even if it was only a single faience bracelet. Dancing to music played by the priests and priestesses of Hathor traveling with Pharaoh, even the humblest of her people drank sweet fruit juices in the morning and beer in the afternoon. The High Priest of Amun was Treasurer of the King of Upper and Lower Kemet and his generosity proved as great as his wisdom for everywhere they went he extended his hand as though there was no limit to how much he could give. Hapuseneb’s scribes everyday proved the power of Thoth by efficiently procuring and distributing as many loaves of bread and barrels of beer as were needed to fulfill the needs of the multitudes.

“Cakes of incense, jars of wine, alabaster vessels filled with unguents, gold plates and silver cups—all the luxuries required by Maatkare and her entourage traveled with her on over fifty transport barges.”

From Truth is the Soul of the Sun – A Biographical Novel of Hatshepsut Maatkare