A HISTORY OF FOOD IN THE ANCIENT WORLD
By Tim Lambert
For most people in ancient Egypt food was plain and dull. The staple food of the Egyptians was bread and beer. Bread was baked outside and because of the desert sand was often blown into dough. In time eating bread with grains of sand in it wore down peoples teeth.
In ancient Egypt as in all early civilizations meat was a luxury and only the rich could afford to eat it frequently. Nevertheless the Egyptians ate sheep, pigs, cows and goats but meat often came from ducks and geese. However fish were plentiful in Egypt.
Egyptian food included many vegetables, such as marrows, beans, onions, lentils, leeks, radishes, garlic and lettuces. They also ate fruit like melons, dates and figs. Pomegranates were quite expensive and were eaten mainly by the rich. The Egyptians grew herbs and spices and they made cooking oil.
Beer was made from crumbled barley bread and barley with water so it was lumpy. It was strained before it was drunk. Even so it was still lumpy so it had to be drunk through a wooden straw with a filter. Better off Egyptians drank wine.
Food in Ancient Greece
Like Egyptians ordinary Greeks ate plain food. They lived on a staple diet of bread (made from barley or, if you could afford it, wheat) and goat's cheese. Meat was a luxury but fish and vegetables were plentiful. Ordinary Greeks ate pulses, onions, garlic, and olives. They also ate hen eggs. Peasants caught small birds to eat. The Greeks also ate fruit such as raisins, apricots, figs, apples, pears, and pomegranates.
Rich Greeks ate many different types of food such as roasted hare, peacocks eggs or iris bulbs in vinegar. Poor people drank mainly water. If they could afford it they added honey to sweeten it. Wine was also a popular drink. Usually, wine was drunk diluted with water.
A Roman dining room was called a triclinium. The Romans ate a breakfast of bread and fruit called the ientaculum. At midday they ate a meal called the prandium of fish, cold meat, bread and vegetables. The main meal was called the cena and was eaten in the evening.
The Romans were also very fond of fish sauce called liquamen. They also liked oysters, which were exported from Britain.
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