The Egyptians did not have a word that means "banquet," but it's obvious from tomb paintings that they did hold large, lavish feasts -- at least for the elite. Banquets were probably held to commemorate important life events such as births, deaths and weddings. Noblemen also likely held banquets to honor important guests or even just as a way to entertain. Although many foods -- especially meat -- were hard to come by in Egypt, no expense was spared at banquets.
Bread was an important staple in an Egyptian's diet. Grains grew very well in the soil and climate along the Nile. Although poor Egyptians sometimes had to put up with gritty sand in their bread, the elite were served as many as 40 different types of breads and cakes. Emmer wheat and barley were two of the most commonly grown grains, and they were used not only to make bread, but for brewing beer as well.
Beer and Wine
Beer was very important in ancient Egypt. Workers were sometimes paid with beer, and both the poor and the elite drank it. Beer was brewed from both barley and emmer wheat, but in a different process than how it is brewed today. Wine was also plentiful in Egypt, and both wine and beer were served at banquets. A lesser known drink, made from fermented pomegranates, was also sometimes served at banquets.
Meat and Fish
Lower class Egyptians rarely ate meat other than dried fish -- it was just too expensive. The elite, on the other hand, feasted on beef and water fowl, especially at banquets. Entire oxen would be cooked for a banquet, along with pigeons, geese and ducks. Sometimes, fish was also served at banquets. These meats were seasoned with valuable herbs such as rosemary, cinnamon, dill and cumin.
Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables were plentiful in Egypt, including some -- mostly stone fruits like cherries, peaches and pears -- that Romans brought to the area. Onions, leeks and garlic were everyday fare, especially among the poor. At a banquet, however, guests would feast on raisins, dates, figs, melons, grapes, apples, watermelon, pomegranates and mulberries. Lettuce, cucumbers, chickpeas, olives and tiger nuts were also served.
- The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt; Donald B. Redford
- Tour Egypt: Party Time in Ancient Egypt
- The New York Times: In Ancient Egypt, the Beer of Kings Was a Sophisticated Brew
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images