The food served in Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)'s household was of modest quality, yet was rich in terms of helping the poor and praising Allah. Nothing of a forbidden nature was ever included on the Prophet's table.
Prophet Muhammad said "Eat food together, do not be separate; bounties undoubtedly come from eating together", stating that eating alone is not blessed and that it is necessary for a family to sit together at the table. Even though Prophet Muhammad favored certain foods over others, he nevertheless did not let his distaste for a certain food override the foods offered nor did he ban this sort of food. He said "Leave those you don't like and let others benefit from it", emphasizing that people need to respect the likes or dislikes of others, thus preventing food from being wasted.
Prophet Muhammad always obeyed rules of economy and never allowed bread or food to be wasted. He took great care not to leave any food on the plate and stated that morsels and food that had been dropped should be eaten after cleaning the particles that were harmful to people. On the other hand, he advised people not to be extreme in the act of eating and said "No person can fill a dish that is worse than his stomach".
Foods Favored and Eaten at the Prophet’s Table:
He liked honey and other desserts. The Tharid food, prepared by adding slices of bread to the meat broth was one of his favorite foods. He liked eating water melon and date which has not reached its degree of density. He also had a habit of eating salted cucumber. Needless to say, during that period people used to eat meat dishes, which were among the favorite meals like tirit (a meat broth), which Prophet Muhammad particularly enjoyed.
There is no doubt that the foremost food resources of Prophet’s family were dates and barleys, as these were also the main nutrients of people in Arabia. Dates are a staple within this peninsula.
Milk was also a drink which was frequently preferred. It is known that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself would milk the cattle in his yard and help his family. Milk, as it was in other families, constituted the basic food in addition to date and barley bread. Moreover, milk would always be served to his guests.
The Difficulties Experienced at the Prophet’s Table and Eating Manners:
Having been assigned with the most difficult task, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his family often experienced problems filling their table. Since he was spreading the revelation, Prophet Muhammad did not have the opportunity to work for his or his family's sustenance. The people helping him with his holy duty also experienced these hardships. The initial hardship was undoubtedly the issue of not being able to provide adequate food. Prophet Muhammad had to try to obtain subsistence for his family with inadequate means.
There are numerous hadiths (sayings of the Prophet) in relation to the hardships experienced by Prophet Muhammad's family in terms of the provision of food. Among these hardships was the time when the Prophet had to tie a stone on his stomach to stop his hunger pains. His wife Aisha, who provided comprehensive information about the Prophet's household, speaks of the Prophet's frugal use of food:
"The Prophet never ate two different types of food in a single day. When he ate meat, he didn't add any other food to it. When he ate dates, he never mixed anything with them, when he ate bread, he did not add anything to it."
There is no question that there should be a great variety of foods eaten in a single meal. However, the reason why Prophet Muhammad ate of a single type of food was due to a shortage of food. Anas presents the following information as to the quality of the Prophet's bread:
"The Prophet (pbuh) never ate fried mutton or bread made of thin flour until he reached Allah."
It is understood from some hadiths that the family ate whole-wheat bread; as the Prophet's wives did not have any sieves they were only able to partially clean the chaff by blowing at the flour. It is understood that in these periods the Muslims were not able to reach the areas mentioned in the Holy Quran where olives, pomegranates and figs grew.
As for kitchen tasks in the house of Prophet Muhammad, his wives cooked the meals themselves. For instance: Safiyya was famous for her cooking. Aisha once said; "I have not seen a person who can cook like her". In the sources there is no information of slaves working in the kitchen. Prophet Muhammad acquired some slaves, all of whom he later freed. These people were employed for short periods of time in the garden and to tend the cattle. Since the sources do not provide much information about the services provided by the slaves, the Prophet must have kept those slaves who were assigned to work outside the house for only a very short period of time. Although Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not have a cook, some people from the Companions had cooks or bakers. For instance, even Anas, who served the Prophet for ten years, later acquired a baker.
Prophet Muhammad's wives were probably grinding the flour for bread themselves, using hand mills. We can arrive at this conclusion if we examine the incident in which his daughter Fatima requested a servant as her hands had been greatly calloused; Prophet Muhammad refused her request, telling her that it was more beneficial to count her beads and go to bed tired because of the needs of the poor.
Anas, who served the Prophet for a period of ten years when he was young, provides information about how the Prophet's table was prepared; gold or silver pot and pans were banned and never used:
"I do not know of an incident where the Prophet ate from small plates or any time when they baked for him from refined flour or when he ate at a table" And when they asked him "Where did they eat their meals?" Anas answered; "They ate on the (floor) cloth."
In the Prophet's house, the family would eat meals on a woven mate of date branches and leaves. In general, plates, cans and other kitchen utensils were used. In accordance with the Prophet's advice, the hands were wiped with napkins and towels after the meal.
Prophet Muhammad’s Feasts for the Poor and His Political Feasts:
Prophet Muhammad would care for the homeless people living in Suffa and other needy and hungry people. In some cases he would take some of the poor to his home and make other wealthy Muslims do the same thing.
The Prophet would also host and feed envoys and political committees with the income he acquired from the Banu Nadir and Haybar areas that had been given over to his personal administration. After the 9th year of the hijrah many committees came to Medina and Prophet Muhammad would accommodate these people in the guesthouses and would order people to prepare tables for the guests.
We have information about which foods were served to the committees; when the committee of the Hanifa people from the Yamama region arrived - it is recorded that this committee consisted of 10 people - they were accommodated in the guesthouses. They were served with bread and meat or bread and milk, other times they were treated to bread and butter and dates. Abu Hurairah records that due to the large numbers of people arriving, the Prophet himself was not able to eat a meal. Since the state income was not adequate, the Prophet was obliged to help anywhere possible and thus the state feast was held somewhere outside his house.