Ancient Egyptian fruitcakes? No, that’s not what I mean.

Read it in The Seattle Times today, that fruitcakes can be traced back to ancient Egypt. The Egyptians placed some sort of dessert similar to a fruitcake in the tombs for something sweet to eat in the afterlife, so the story goes.

But in researching further, I’ve discovered this may not be true. Could be “ fake news.”

It is often referred to as legend and lore, which means physical examples are probably hard to come by and may not exist. I wonder if there are any surviving recipes on papyrus stashed somewhere.

Culinary lore claims that ancient Egyptians placed an early version of the fruitcake on the tombs of loved ones, perhaps as food for the afterlife. But fruitcakes were not common until Roman times, when pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and barley mash were mixed together to form a ring-shaped dessert.

It was popular among soldiers, who had to journey to faraway lands and no doubt often went hungry.

Prized for its portability and shelf life, Roman soldiers often brought fruitcake with them to the battlefields.

Later, the oddity became a staple for those heading off to the Crusades.

Crusaders and hunters were reported to have carried this type of cake to sustain themselves over long periods of time away from home.

Thankfully, in the 21st century Western world there is no need for fruitcakes.

ajh

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