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Foods and Culinary Utensils of the Ancients

The papyrus grew luxuriantly in ancient Egypt


The

nebk or _sidr_ is another fruit of the date variety. It was eaten raw, or the flesh, detached from the stone, was dried in the sun. It enjoyed the reputation of being a sustaining as well as agreeable article.

The most common fig was that known to the Romans as "cottana," and by the modern Arabs as "qottaya."

The olives grown were large and fleshy, but contained little oil.

Vines were undoubtedly much cultivated, in spite of the assertion of Herodotus to the contrary. The bunches of grapes, when intended for immediate consumption, were, after being gathered, placed in flat open baskets. When intended for the wine press they were closely packed in deep baskets or hampers, which were carried to the shed or storehouse on men's heads or by means of shoulder yokes. The juice was extracted by treading or squeezing in a bag.

The juice of the grape was sometimes drunk in its fresh condition (Genesis), but fermentation was usually awaited, and the wine was then stored away in vases or amphorae of elegant shape, closed with stoppers and hermetically sealed with moist clay, pitch, gypsum or other similar substances.

The best brands came from Anthylla (Athenaeus), Marestis (Pliny and Strabo), and the tract about Lake Marea. Sebennytic, Thebaid and Coptos also produced light, wholesome wines.

justify;">The esculent plants consisted of both wild and cultivated varieties. Those most in demand were the byblus or papyrus, the Nymphaea lotus, lotus coerulea and the Nymphaea nelumbo (called by Pliny "colocasia" and also "cyamon").

The papyrus grew luxuriantly in ancient Egypt, especially in the marshy districts of the Delta, although it is no longer found in the country. The pith of the upper and middle portions of the tall, smooth, triangular-shaped reed was used for paper, but that of the lower portion and the root were regarded as an edible delicacy. According to Herodotus, it was prepared for the table by being baked in a closed vessel.

The Nymphaea lotus, which resembles our white water lily, was also a product of the lowlands. The seed vessels were collected and dried, to be afterward crushed and made into cakes. The rest of the plant was also eaten cooked or raw, and was said to be of a "pleasant sweet taste," but nineteenth century palates declare it to be no better than a bad truffle. The lotus coerulea was merely another variety of the same plant.

The Nymphaea nelumbo, which is, by the way, no longer found in Africa, was called by the Greeks and Romans the "Egyptian bean," and was regarded by those races as emblematic of Egypt. It did not differ from the ordinary lotus except in the large dimensions of the leaves and the size and loveliness of its blossoms. The leaf of the flower varied from one to one and a half feet in diameter. It had two rows of petals six inches in length, of a crimson or rose-colored purple, and inside of these was a dense fringe of stamens surrounding and protecting the ovary. The fruit developed into a sweet, wholesome nut or almond, divided into two lobes by a bitter green leaf or corculum (removed before eating), with a shell shaped like the rose of a watering pot and studded with seeds (about the size of small acorns and to the number of twenty or thirty), which projected from the upper surface in a circle about three inches in diameter. Both the nuts and roots were eaten by the poorer classes.


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