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Cuisine of the times of the pharaohs had recipes used to this day
Nourishment in the times of Ancient Egypt was rich and varied. Thanks to an infinity of documents, like papyrus and inscriptions made in graves, it is possible to know what the pharaohs ate. This is the theme of the book 'History of Pharaoh Cuisine - Eating in Ancient Egypt", by the French Egyptologist Pierre Tallet.
São Paulo - Bread and beer, foods eaten nowadays, were the base of the Egyptians' nourishment in the times of the pharaohs, period which started around the year 3200 b.C. and ended in 322 a.C. when Alexandre the Great conquered the country. This is what tells the Frenchman Pierre Tallet in his book "História da Cozinha Faraônica - A Alimentação no Egito Antigo" ("History of Pharaoh Cuisine - Eating in Ancient Egypt"), which was published in Brazil, translated to Portuguese, by the publishing house Senac.
According to the author, one of the greatest Egyptologists nowadays, it is possible to study what the Egyptians of that time ate thanks to the papyruses, scrolls and, especially, the paintings and engravings found in the graves of the nobles. Such inscriptions made clear the concerns of that society in keeping the deceased in contact with two of greatest pleasures in life: eating and drinking. Tallet describes a ritual in which there is a banquet for the deceased one and the food is introduced in his mouth, as in an attempt to make him take that flavour with him to the afterlife.
Eating was a sacred habit in those times. And the table laid for the pharaohs was plentiful. To keep the palace always well stocked, many workers were required. Cooks, brewers, bakers and sweets confectioners were commanded by superiors. A papyrus from the New Empire (between 1552 and 1069 b.C.) gives an idea of the "supermarket list" these employees had to provide. There are 22 items that vary from "1,000 heret breads made with tjeret flour", one of the many kinds of bread produced by the Egyptians, to "70 lambs". The list is very up to date. There is a bit of everything: nothura, dry figs, raisins, duck, herbs, milk, dry beef, fruits, giblets, various biscuits and even beer and jugs of wine.
Of course, the eating habits of the poorer population, the majority, was a lot simpler. According to Tallet, each family produced their bread and beer every day. And they used to eat three times a day: by the morning, at midday and at night. The women were in charge of making bread and beer, while the men worked in agriculture. These labourers took a kind of lunchbox to work, with a mixture of bread and onions they ate sitting under trees.
The types of beer
As one of the most important drinks in Egyptian society, beer had many distinct flavours and names. There were dozens of types. The most popular was the heneket, which was homemade. Seremet, made of dates, was also amongst the favourites. According to the book, research is still being made on the drink's elaboration process in Ancient Egypt, but it is already possible to know that they used ingredients like figs, lupine, honey and sesame seeds to make it.
The Egyptians were also great sweet makers. Some recipes found had medicinal purposes like healing a cough. One of them, for the shayat biscuit, was deduced from paintings on the Theban grave of the vizier Rekhmire, of the XVIII dynasty. The biscuits were made from chufa, a root still used today in the Egyptian cuisine, water, dates and honey. When the dough was ready and formatted, the biscuits were fried in olive oil.
The book by Tallet is a gastronomy journey to the past. It is possible to learn, through the eating habits, how the ancient Egyptians lived and organised themselves in society. To make the book even tastier, Tallet included 28 recipes obtained from the papyrus and funerary material of the pharaohs. Many of these recipes can be made to this day. Here is one of them as an aperitif.
For the dough:
1 kg of flour
450g of butter
For the stuffing
Preparation: Dilute the yeast in a little bit of warm water. Put the flour in a bowl, make a hole in the middle and place the melted butter, the diluted yeast and warm water needed to work the dough. Let it rest for one hour. In the meantime, smash the cheese with a fork and mix in the whipped eggs and parsley. Spread out the dough with a roll, cut it in disks of 10 cm, fill in with the cheese mix, close well and fry in a medium fire until it looks golden.
A História da Cozinha Faraônica
Senac publishing house
R$ 58,00 (about US$ 28
*Translated by Silvia Lindsey
nn ms.i sA.w -- No one is born wise.