Eating in Jerusalem in the Mameluke Period
In the Mameluke period, most of the population subsisted on the familiar local diet: bread, burghul wheat, pulses, vegetables, fruit, garlic, and onions.
Rice, which had been grown locally in the Second Temple period, once again had a place of honor on the tables of people of all classes. People usually ate two main meals a day, in the morning and in the evening.
This period saw the rise of cooks who specialized in the preparation of a particular food, which they sold in the city's markets as a popular food for both local residents and pilgrims: sambusak (meat pastry), boiled sheep's head (considered a great delicacy), rose water, assorted jams, sesame and olive oil, and of course, bread (pitas).
The markets also offered a rich variety of local agricultural produce: olives, figs, grapes, pomegranates, various vegetables, nuts, and pistachios. Contemporary documents mention 36 crops grown in the Jerusalem area.
Despite this abundance, most residents of Jerusalem at the time were very poor, and there is evidence of repeated famines. The soup kitchens associated with Muslim religious institutions occupied an increasingly important place in the city's economy. The limited menu they offered included rice, wheat products, and a few vegetables.
Source: The Jerusalem Mosaic. Copyright 1995 Hebrew University of Jerusalem -- All Rights Reserved.