Mediterranean cuisine is a culinary
trend that is shared by an array of
people that live in region around the
Mediterranean sea. There is a vast
amount of cultural variance that
makes the cooking a product of cul-
tural influence. Mediterranean cuisine
is built around fresh, wholesome fruits,
vegetables, whole grains, breads,
legumes, seafood, nuts, olive oil and
seeds. Virtually all Mediterranean food
is distinctive and flavorful due to rich
and quality spices. Mediterranean
cuisine rely heavily on cooking and
preparation techniques to deliver
distinctive and unique flavor. Food
is integral to the ebullient hospitality
which is imperative throughout in the
Mediterranean region.
The Mediterranean region can be
divided into three culinary regions:
Eastern Mediterranean, Southern
European and North African. Eastern
Mediterranean cuisine includes culi-
nary traditions of Greece, Turkey,
Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt.
Cheese and yoghurt are primarily
used as condiments. Some herbs
like parsley and mint are dominantly
used in the Eastern region. Grains
are used in the form of bread. Meat
is skewered in chunks like kebabs.
Chick peas are widely used as
spreads. The Southern European
cuisine includes regions of Italy,
Southern France and Spain. Tomato,
garlic, capers and pine nuts are
widely used. Grains are used in the
form of pasta or rice. North African
cuisine comprises of Morocco,
Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. Harissa
and ras el hanout are predominantly
used in Moroccan cuisine. Use of
cumin, coriander, saffron, and cin-
namon are in the Southern cooking
traditions. Dried fruit like dates, apri-
cot and raisins are commonly used.
The most universally used and preva-
lent ingredient in the Mediterranean
cuisine is olive oil. Olive trees are
habitual throughout the region and
a major export. Olive oil is used both
in cooking and as dressing. Use of
vegetables in various ways enhances
bold flavors. Eggplants, artichokes,
squashes, tomatoes, legumes, onions,
cucumbers, mushrooms and assorted
variety of greens embellish in this
region are regularly used. Meat is
frivolously used and is mostly grilled.
Due to the rocky terrain, larger ani-
mals are not typically supported
limiting the meat options to smaller
animals like goat, sheep, and chicken.
Goat and sheep milk is predomi-
nantly used in the forms of yoghurt
and cheese. Seafood is generally the
most prevalent in the Mediterranean
cuisine and used as the primary
source of protein. Additionally, the
close proximity to the Mediterranean
sea provides easy passage to fresh
seafood. Use of fresh herbs desig-
nates the Mediterranean cuisine. The
climate and geographic location is
Ideal for growing herbaceous plants.
Most commonly used herbs are basil,
oregano, rosemary, parsley, dill, mint
and cilantro to name a few.
The Mediterranean diet favors
mono-saturated fat, whole and unpro-
cessed grains, proteins, sugar in its
natural habitat and fiber. In 2010, the
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
reported results from 19 studies with
more than 2 million total participants,
that adherence to the Mediterranean
diet not only decreased overall lower
mortality rates but also a reduced
risk of many serious health prob-
lems, including heart disease, stroke,
Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
The Mediterranean food we eat today
came about as a result of three evolu-
tions affecting Mediterranean history:
the Arab agricultural revolution of the
ninth through twelfth centuries, the
Age of Exploration in the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries and the cre-
ative impulse of the Renaissance.
The past millennium has formed the
Mediterranean food of today which is
the result of Mediterranean people
inspired by the Islamic culture and
agronomy of the past millennium,
enhanced by foods brought to the
Mediterranean from exploration. Food
is essential to our lives and cuisine is
the result of culture and reflection of
the society from which it emanates.
By Nuzhat Hussain, Training Specialist at National Association of
Medicare Supplement Advisors, Inc. (NAMSA)
Spring 2013
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