Mediterranean Cuisine: A Concoction of various cultures within the same region
The Mediterranean is not a one-culture, one-history, one-location region; therefore, we cannot define it as a particular regional cuisine but more of a blend of different ethnic groups and cultures. So we can say that Mediterranean cuisine is a collection of cuisines shared by different groups of people that live around the Mediterranean Sea. Although many people are of the assumption that the cuisine of the Mediterranean is a combined culinary tradition, it in fact is diverse within the region. But that doesn't lessen the authenticity and the sumptuousness of the dishes.
But does this mean that there is no similarity in the culinary tradition of the various regions of the Mediterranean? No, there are some common factors that influence the preparation of the cuisines. Let's delve into those first.
Good news for the veggie lovers! The climate and the geographic location has influenced the type of food cooked, and as the Mediterranean has a favorable agricultural climate, the cuisines are mostly vegetable-dominant. The ingredient that is most widely used in Mediterranean cuisine is olive oil, which works equally well for cooking as well as food dressing.
The Mediterranean cuisines are mostly vegetable-dominated with a wide variety of vegetables like squash, legumes, eggplant, artichokes, tomatoes, okra, onions, cucumbers, mushrooms along with lettuces and varied green vegetables. There are different ways of cooking the vegetables that create more varieties like pureed, roasted, grilled, sautéed, or even dished up fresh in salads.
Now what about the hardcore non-vegetarians? Will they not be able to enjoy Mediterranean food? They can although the options are not as varied as the veggies. Meat is not used much in Mediterranean cuisines and when used, it's mostly grilled.
Seafood has to be part of the Mediterranean cuisines because of the region's intimacy with the sea. Seafood is the primary source of protein in these cuisines. The cuisine of the Mediterranean owes it uniqueness to the varied herbs used. Although the use of the herbs may vary within the cultures, the common herbs used by almost all cultures are thyme, marjoram, oregano, dill, parsley, garlic, tarragon, saffron, fennel, and cilantro.
The Difference: This is where the Mediterranean Cuisine shows its varietyThe Mediterranean cuisine can be differentiated into the Southern Europe, Eastern Mediterranean, and North Africa.
The Middle Eastern cuisines of Turkey, Lebanon, Greece, Palestine, Israel, and Egypt fall in the Eastern Mediterranean cuisine. Pita and lavash bread, rice, and meat in the form of Kebabs, kibbeh, gyros, tabouleh are some example of this line of cuisine.
Italy, Spain, and Southern France fall in the category of Southern European cuisines. In this class of Mediterranean food, unlike the other regions, wine is a common ingredient used for garnishing as well as drinking. Pork is more predominant here than other meats. Pasta, bread, and rice are the staple food of this region.
If you like spicy food, go for North African cuisines found in Algeria, Morocco, Libya, and Tunisia. Dried fruits are a common ingredient used in the cuisine. More than chicken and beef, mutton, lamb, and goat meat are widely used. The Moroccan tagine is a popular dish that is loved by many tourists who have a palate for spicy foods.