by Daniel Rogov
Everybody knows that the ancient Egyptians were superb mathematicians and engineers. This was the land in which geometry was born and where the pyramids were built. However, not nearly as many are aware of the enormous contribution to modern dining habits made by these same people.
About 5,000 years ago, Egyptians bakers discovered the secret of leavening. Not too many years later, other cooks, probably in the area of Alexandria, invented the first ovens that were small enough to fit into the average home. The Egyptians also had the wisdom to realize that by combining olive oil, lemon juice and egg yolks you could produce the wonderful condiment known today as "mayonnaise". And, much to the dismay of people who love Marco Polo and all of the myths surrounding his trip to the Orient, it was the Egyptians who invented pasta.
Although the Jews of Alexandria and Cairo did not make any major impact on the culinary styles of Egypt, they did adapt many dishes to the special requirements of kashrut and a host of Egyptian culinary treats have been comfortably absorbed into the dining habits of most Israelis.
Daniel Rogov is the restaurant and wine critic for the daily newspaper Ha'aretz. He is also the senior writer for Wine and Gourmet Magazine and contributes culinary and wine articles to newspapers in Europe and the United States.
Source: Israeli Foreign Ministry and Rogov's Ramblings. Reprinted with permission.