Archaeologists know about the foods that graced ancient Egyptian tables because of tomb paintings depicting harvest scenes and food preparation. Wealthy Egyptians' graves contained food to travel with the deceased into the afterlife; the remnants of these foods also inform researchers about the Egyptian diet at the time the tomb was sealed. While not all ancient Egyptian fare suits a menu for children, enough foods remain familiar today to put together an Egyptian snack buffet.
The bread that ancient Egyptians knew did not resemble the fluffy, white loaves children find familiar. During the Old Kingdom, bread meant a flat, unleavened cake shaped into rounds or triangles. Later breads included yeast. For bread similar to what ancient Egyptians ate, buy coarsely textured flat loaves containing stone-ground emmer wheat. Whole wheat pita bread also resembles ancient breads. Turn wedges of coarse Egyptian-style breads into kid-friendly snack food with a drizzle of honey or a yogurt dip; these condiments suit both historical accuracy and the modern palate.
According to imagery in their paintings, the Egyptians knew how to keep bees and harvest their honey since the Old Kingdom period of approximately 2,400 BC. Archaeologists have found jars of honey in tombs including two empty, but labeled honey jars in Tutankhamun's famous tomb. Embalmers even used honey to prepare mummies, a fact that parents may choose not to share with kids about to enjoy a snack of honeyed bread. Use honey as a dip for Egyptian-style bread, pour it over tart apricots or mix it into yogurt for a children's snack fit for a young pharaoh.
Grapes and Raisins
Grapes thrived in the rich alluvial plains bordering the Nile. Egypt's arid climate lent itself well to drying fruit. Frescoes depict workers harvesting grapes and setting them out to dry into raisins; archaeologists can conclude from these paintings and from written accounts of offerings to gods that the Egyptians ate both grapes and raisins. These portable, mess-free foods make good child-friendly snacks today as they must have for kids in ancient Egypt. Children need little encouragement to enjoy these familiar sweet treats, but presenting them as the food of pharaohs makes them even more appealing.
While the rich used honey to sweeten dishes, less affluent Egyptians used fresh or dried dates as a sweetener. Dates left in graves to nourish the deceased in the afterlife suggest that both the wealthy and the poor enjoyed these sweet fruits. Millennia of careful cross-breeding has left modern dates sweeter than ancient Egyptian varieties, but kids likely will not mind eating a sweeter fruit than what the ancients enjoyed. Serve pitted dates as a snack by themselves or with fresh cheese as the Egyptians might have eaten them.
Figs, like dates, grew in Egypt from the earliest recorded times. Egyptians ate them fresh or dried; the soft fruits remain a common snack in present-day Egypt. Apples and pomegranates made their way into Egypt around 2,000 BC, while apricots and almonds did not reach the area until approximately 400 BC. All of these fruits make tasty, healthful and authentic Egyptian snacks for children and can help illustrate how new foods become part of a culture over time.