An early Ramesside Period mural painting from Deir el-Medina tomb depicts an Egyptian couple harvesting crops. The cuisine of ancient Egypt covers a span of over 3000 years, but still retained many consistent traits until well into Greco-Roman times. The staples of both poor and wealthy Egyptians were bread and beer, often accompanied by green-shooted onions, other vegetables, and to a lesser extent meat, game and fish.
Depictions of banquets can be found in paintings from both the Old and New Kingdom. They usually started sometime in the afternoon. Men and women were separated unless they were married. Seating varied according to social status, with those of the highest status sitting on chairs, those slightly lower sat on stools, and those lowest in rank sat on the bare floor. Before the food was served, basins were provided along with perfumes. Cones of scented fat were lit to spread pleasant smells or to repel insects, depending on the type. Lily flowers and flower collars were handed out and professional dancers (primarily women) entertained, accompanied by musicians playing harps, lutes, drums, tambourines, and clappers. There were usually considerable amounts of alcohol and abundant quantities of foods; there were whole roast oxen, ducks, geese, pigeons, and at times fish. The dishes frequently consisted of stews served with great amounts of bread, fresh vegetables, and fruit. For sweets there were cakes baked with dates, sweetened with honey. The goddess Hathor was often invoked during feasts. Spices and herbs were added for flavor, though the former were expensive imports and therefore confined to the tables of the wealthy. Food such as meats was mostly preserved by salting, and dates and raisins could be dried for long-term storage. The staples bread and beer were usually prepared in the same locations, as the yeast used for bread was also used for brewing. The two were prepared either in special bakeries or, more often, at home, and any surplus would be sold. Honey was the primary sweetener, but was rather expensive. There was honey collected from the wild, and honey from domesticated bees kept in pottery hives. A cheaper alternative would have been dates or carob. Oils would be made from lettuce or radish seed, safflower, ben, balanites, and sesame. Animal fat was employed for cooking and jars used for storing it have been found in many settlements.