Meals, Customs and Foods Commonly Used in Egypt
MEALS AND CUSTOMS
Because the sheer quantity of foods offered is an important part of
hospitality, some special dinners have as many as forty varied dishes,
each one heaped and garnished in lavish display. Water or some form of
light drink will be served with the meal. Sweet honey desserts might
conclude a special meal, but fruits are the usual dessert. Small cups of
Turkish-type black sweetened coffee and the smoking of the narghile or
hookah (water pipe) may he an after-dinner pleasure for some.
Morning begins very' early for the fellaheen with a light breakfast of ful,
bread, olives, mish, and sweet tea. In some areas local fruits may be
eaten in season accompanying the bread and tea. Urban breakfasts are
identical but coffee substitutes for tea.
The (ellaheen's lunch will be a repeat of the earlier meal while dinner
may include a legume-based soup (e.g. thick lentil soup) or kishk cooked
with water. Olives with fresh onions and bread will complete the meal,
while cups of sweet tea will be sipped to satiety.
There is usually not a great variety of foods in the peasant's meals but
the staple legumes are pre-pared in many different ways and the adroit use
of pungent and hot seasonings, along with the generous consumption of
bread and tea, provides variety and satisfaction. Dried boiled legumes can
he served as soup or stew, or drained and served as a "salad." Sometimes
mashed cooked legumes are heaped in a mound and served with small amounts
of meats or vegetables. Or they may be deep-fried in patties called tamiya.
Ful nabit is yet another main dish prepared from sprouted beans.
Foods Commonly Used
Although there is a marked difference between the foods of the upper classes and the fellaheen, the general Egyptian fare is vegetarian. Even the wealthy serve meat only once or twice a week, while the poorest taste meat only on special occasions. Bread is the staple of all classes, from the leavened wheat breads of the upper class to the fellaheen's staple of unleavened corn breads flavored with fenugreek (similar in taste to anise). Meat, fish, legumes, and dairy products are a part of urban diets; skim milk cheese and legumes are the most important protein foods for the fellaheen, who supplement their diet with onions, tomatoes, and wild greens as well as very small amounts of local fruit. The wealthy consume fruits and vegetables according to taste. Tea is the rural drink, coffee is the urban drink, and all groups consume sweetened carbonated drinks.