A History of Food and Culture

When visiting our location on the Danforth, you may have noticed an illustration of three languages side-by-side. This was created to present a view of the connection of the past, present, and our beautiful multi-cultural society. We would like to thank Egyptologist Stacy Davidson for her help in creating this work, which was inspired by the Rosetta stone and its importance in unlocking a treasure-trove of knowledge about Ancient Egypt.

The Rosetta Stone

One of the most famous artifacts in history, the Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799, with origins dating all the way back to Memphis, Egypt, 196 BC. Completely covered on one side with ancient languages, the Rosetta Stone is practically a synonym for linguistic learning and translation. It is comprised of Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, Demotic script, and Ancient Greek texts. Without the Rosetta Stone, understanding the Egyptian hieroglyphs may have been completely lost to history.

At Papyrus, we believe food is a language that can help bring us together and unlock our common values

A bit of history on three of our main foods can help add insight
into the daily life, culture, and influences shared among people

Ful

Ful, or its close relative dish, is said to date back as far as Ancient Egypt itself. During the Middle Ages, Ful was a considered a delicacy, and its production was controlled by people living around the bath compounds where the Ful was made. Firewood was scarce, and the compounds burned wood all day long to make hot water for the baths, leaving big smoldering piles of hot embers every night. The workers converted the huge copper pots (called qidras) into cauldrons which they would completely fill with fava beans, and would allow them to simmer overnight. By morning, the beans were cooked and ready to be made into Ful. In this way, the Cairo population was supplied with Ful for breakfast every day. These giant copper qidras are still used to cook Ful across much of Egypt.

Tameya

Tameya and its cousin, falafel, may have a close and intertwined history. There is some debate as to their true origins. A widely-held theory is that the dish was invented in Egypt about 1000 years ago by Coptic Christians, who ate it as a replacement for meat during Lent. Anything popular in Alexandria would have quickly found its way to other port cities on the Mediterranean Sea, from which the dish later migrated northwards to the Levant, where chickpeas replaced the fava beans. Today, this dish and the best way to prepare it are a source of pride for several cultures in the Middle East who lay claim to its origin. McDonald’s even introduced a McFalafel in several countries.

Koshari

Koshari is one of the relatively-young additions to the Egyptian cuisine menu at only about 200 years old. Even so, it has grown to such immense popularity that some consider it the national dish of Egypt. Koshari originated in the mid-19th century, when Egypt was a multi-cultural country experiencing expansive economic growth. It was said to have been invented by local French people as a vegetarian dish called couches de riz. Because it was somewhat similar to the Indian dish Khichdi, others believe that the recipe for Koshari travelled to Egypt along with British soldiers during colonization of both countries and evolved at the hands of Egyptian soldiers and citizens over time. At first, it was a very popular street food sold on food carts, but was later introduced to restaurants as it quickly gained fame.

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