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Ancient Egypt for Kids
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What did the ancient Egyptians eat?

Pharaoh wanted his people to eat well. Except for a few sacred animals, there was nothing to stop the people from gathering and growing food. No one went hungry in ancient Egypt. Food was roasted and boiled, and fried and dried, and baked and blended. They had plenty of fresh food to keep them healthy thanks to the Nile River.

The Nile flows north to the Mediterranean. Each year, melting snow from the mountains in the south caused the Nile to flood on its way north through Egypt. As the flood waters receded, they left behind a rich, fertile, dark soil. It was easy to grow crops in the fertile soil left behind by the annual flooding of the Nile.

The ancient Egyptians loved garlic. They also ate green vegetables, lentils, figs, dates, onions, fish, birds, eggs, cheese, and butter. Their staple foods were bread and beer.

Breads were sweetened with dates, honey, and figs or dates. They had flatbreads. They even had yeast breads. Breads were made with barley and wheat.

Beer was the most common drink in ancient Egypt. There were very few wells. Most ancient Egyptians did not want to drink water directly from the Nile. The Nile River offered fresh water, but the ancient Egyptians had observed that people became sick after drinking the water. So they drank beer made from barley. The beer was very thick, about the thickness of a milk shake. It was nutritional. It was also much safer than drinking water from the Nile. They also made wine and a non-alcoholic fruit drink made from dates.

Some fish were sacred. But some kinds of fish were eaten after being roasted, or dried and salted. They ate pigeons and waterfowl. The rich ate beef, but beef was expensive. They ate pigs for a while, but the priests decided that pigs were not a good thing to eat, and pork was removed from their diet.

The ancient Egyptians definitely had a sweet tooth. There was popular recipe for a fancy desert made with bread, cream, and honey. They made a bread that was like a cake.

Except in times of drought, when everyone suffered, no one in ancient Egypt needed to go hungry. Pharaoh did not begrudge his people food. They were free to fish the Nile and gather eggs. Grain was stored centrally so that all could share. Food was dried and stored in lidded containers.

  • Upper Class: They ate meat and drank milk. They had wild birds and eggs. They ate a lot of vegetables and dates. Dinner was served on a small table, which was brought to each individual. People ate their food with their fingers. They rinsed their hands between courses, and as needed.

  • Lower Class: The lower class ate fresh bread, onions, vegetables, fish, eggs, and beer. People ate their food with their fingers, while lying on mats woven from reeds.


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