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I’ve seen some people questioning the foods listed in Atem and Bakura’s profiles that were in the millennium book and whether or not they were things they would have actually eaten at the time. It probably does seem a bit strange to see that they liked or disliked a bunch of modern foods so I wanted to address that one at a time.
I will be using Egyptian Food and Drink by Hilary Wilson as a reference. It’s part of the Shire Egyptology series for anyone that’s interested.
Atem’s Favorite Food: Ta'amiya. This is a sort of falafel unique to Egypt that is made with fava beans instead of chickpeas. Typically more greenish in color due to the bean used. “Another type of bean identified from ancient sources is ful nabed, a pale variety of the common broad bean (Vicia faba). Pharaonic cooks almost certainly invented ta'amia or felafel, fried rissoles made from mashed beans, onions, garlic, and spices. Coptic Christians consume large quantities of felafel during Lent. The Copts are said to be descended from the ancient Egyptians and many of their traditions are so old that their origins may well lie in Dynastic times.” (pg.25)
I have seen orther accounts that falafel was possibly created much later in Pharaonic history or even into Coptic Egypt but I think it’s safe to say that it’s possible for Atem to have eaten this.
Atem’s Least Favorite: Batarekh a sort of Egyptian equivalent to caviar that is still made in and around the Mediterranean. In English it seems to be referred to as Botargo or Bottarga from Italian. Apparently it’s also similar to a Japanese product known as karasumi. “Fish were also salted or picked in oil and, in later times, great quantities of preserved first were exported from Egypt. In some scenes of fish preparation, removal of the roes is shown. The dried and salted roe of the grey mullet, known as batarekh, is considered a great delicacy in modern Egypt and is reputed to be a recipe as old as the pharaohs.” (pg. 38)
So it seems batarekh is decidedly plausible!
Thief King Bakura’s Favorite food: Roast pork. Kind of speaks for itself and I think it’s safe to say this one existed but it’s actually pretty interesting how it may have fit into Egyptian life. Keep in mind Egyptians were at least related to Semitic cultural groups who often have taboos against pork. “There is evidence of taboos associated with different meats, but these appear to have been more often social than religious and, if religious, then confined to a specific region or group of people. The eating of pork is quoted by many sources as having been forbidden to the Egyptians. Herodotus [Ancient Greek historian of Ancient Egypt, not always the most accurate but still a valuable source of information] details the festivities held in memory of Horus’ victory over Seth, to whom the pig was sacred. It was, he said, the only time of the year when people ate pork and those families who could not afford a pig would eat loaves made in the shape of the animal. At the Middle Kingdom town of Kahun and the Eighteenth Dynasty workman’s village at Amarna, large quantities of pig bones have been found, indicating that pork played a significant role in the diet of the working-class Egyptian.” (pg.35)
Thief King Bakura’s Least Favorite: Hummus. Self explanatory? To me this is the most nebulous one because there’s not a lot of evidence that hummus existed before the Arab conquests but at the same time, the ingredients would have been readily available and it’s not exactly a fancy dish that takes a lot of thought to put together (unlike dried salted roe sacs?) “The most easily recognisable type [of legume] is the chick-pea, white and knobbly with a little ‘beak’, which explains why the Egyptians called it ‘hawk face’. They could have been served as a vegetable or ground into flour used to enrich bread dough. The most popular modern chick-pea recipe from the Middle East is hummus, a spread of pate made from mashed chick-peas and sesame oil. Chick-pea sellers roam Egyptians markets in late summer selling cones of salted chick-peas with a squeeze of lemon juice” (pg.25)
So like I said, only a reference to it in more modern times as opposed to an ancient one but the parts needed to make it were still known to them. Ergo this one seems like the least likely to have existed.
Personally, I think it’s kind of cute that our Pharaoh of Egypt pretty much enjoyed the Arab world’s equivalent of a hamburger myself while he couldn’t stand the fancy caviar. Meanwhile Bakura likes a dish that was of course more of a questionable luxury while detesting one that, if it existed, was probably relatively common.
So there you go. I think in most cases we can say there is a chance that they would have indeed known these foods. I think it shows at the very least that Takahashi definitely tried to do some research and make apt choices as well which is nothing new.Of course the other characters remain to be seen but I’ll be looking forward to it coming out.