Mediterranean cuisine is the food from the cultures adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea. Although this region spans a wide variety of cultures, the historical connections of the region have led to there being many common elements in the foods.
Ingredients and cooking styles
||The neutrality of this section is disputed. (November 2012)|
The food consists primarily of fruits and vegetables with an emphasis on poultry and seafood, grains, beans and pastas. Olive oil the most prevalent fat or oil used in the preparation of salads, marinades, vegetables, poultry, and seafood. Eggplant, artichokes, squash, tomatoes, legumes, onions, mushrooms, okra, cucumbers, and a variety of greens are served fresh, baked, roasted, sautéed, grilled, and puréed. Yogurt and cheese are also major components of Mediterranean cooking. Coastal areas use seafood. Herbs are used in abundance.[better source needed]
Whether "Mediterranean cuisine" is a useful category is disputed:
The idea of the ‘standard Mediterranean’ ... is a modern construction of food writers and publicists in Europe and North America earnestly preaching what is now thought to be a healthy diet to their audiences by invoking a stereotype of the healthy other on the shores of the Mediterranean. Their colleagues in Mediterranean countries are only too willing to perpetuate this myth. The fact of the matter is that the Mediterranean contains varied cultures...
...there really is no such thing as "Mediterranean cuisine." At the same time, we seem to know what we mean when we use the expression....
The varied cuisines of the Mediterranean have developed over the millennia, with notable regional changes happening with the introduction of New World foods starting in the 16th century. The concept of a Mediterranean cuisine, however, is very recent, probably dating from the publication of Elizabeth David's Book of Mediterranean Food in 1950—though David herself spoke of Mediterranean "food", "cookery", or "cooking".
The Mediterranean diet, popularized in the 1970s, is sometimes conflated with Mediterranean cuisine:
Around 1975, under the impulse of one of those new nutritional directives by which good cooking is too often influenced, the Americans discovered the so-called Mediterranean diet.... The name... even pleased Italian government officials, who made one modification: changing from diet—a word which has always seemed punitive and therefore unpleasant—to Mediterranean cuisine.
- An Introduction to Mediterranean Cuisine
- Sami Zubaida, "National, Communal and Global Dimensions in Middle Eastern Food Cultures" p. 43 in Sami Zubaida and Richard Tapper, A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East, London and New York, 1994 and 2000, ISBN 1-86064-603-4.
- Clifford A. Wright, A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 Recipes, 1999, ISBN 0688153054, p. 1
- Wright, p. xv
- Elizabeth David, A Book of Mediterranean Food, 1950
- Massimo Alberini, Giorgio Mistretta, Guida all'Italia gastronomica, Touring Club Italiano, 1984, p. 37