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, as well as the impact of the Mediterranean Sea on the region's climate and economy, have led to there being many common elements in the foods.
Whether "Mediterranean cuisine" is a useful category is disputed. For example:
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. However, the concept of a Mediterranean cuisine is very recent, probably dating from the publication of Elizabeth David's A 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.
^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