What comes to mind when you think of Mediterranean food? Perhaps it’s olive oil, feta, or maybe it’s hummus and pita? Due in part to its notable medicinal properties, Mediterranean cuisine is growing in popularity even beyond its native locale. As if you needed another reason to experience the breathtaking aspects of the Mediterranean, here are 5 things you don’t know about Mediterranean cuisine.
It’s more diverse than you think
Mediterranean cuisine is a fusion of ethnic diversity. When we talk about food from the Mediterranean, we’re actually talking about food from about 21 different countries. More frequently than not, however, France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Spain are classified as having Mediterranean food customs. Each region in the Mediterranean has a unique sphere of people that have their own twist on similar dishes. For example, two popular foods in the Mediterranean are Moussaka and Maghmour. These two dishes are very similar, but due to their geographic origins, they have distinct differences in flavor and texture. Moussaka is a Greek dish comprised of layers of either eggplant or potato. Maghmour, on the other hand, is a popular Lebanese eggplant stew. The two dishes are just two examples of how each Mediterranean country has their own twist on similar dishes.
TAKEAWAY: The Mediterranean is actually a compilation of three regions: Eastern Mediterranean, Southern Europe, and North Africa. Each region has a distinct type of fare and flavor. Eastern Mediterranean dishes incorporate a lot of yogurt, chickpeas, and kebabs. Southern Europe dishes usually have more garlic and grains in them and North African countries take advantage of spices like cumin and coriander.
Street Markets are the way to go
Street markets are quite common in the Mediterranean countries. The idea is that local farmers and fishers come to the market to sell their food items. Food at these markets are in-season and of freshest quality. Since the food comes directly from the farmer, it’s usually cheaper! Street markets give tourists a prime opportunity to mingle with locals and immerse themselves in the culture.
INSIDERS TIP: When traveling, check with locals to see when the best time to go to the markets is! Often times, specific items are only sold on certain days.
3. Wine is a very important element
It’s difficult to talk about Mediterranean food without mentioning wine. After all, the production of some of the world’s best wine occurs here! Restaurants like Samoa Restaurant Barcelona in Spain have an extensive wine list included in their Samoa menu. The menu itself is vast, so it makes sense that the wine list would seek to accommodate each type of fare. A general rule of thumb is to pair lighter foods with white wines and heartier dishes with darker reds. Though simple guidelines are helpful, wine pairings with Mediterranean food can get complex. Wine not only complements many Mediterranean dishes, but it also adds to the dining experience.
Olives are a staple
A love of olives is a common thread throughout the Mediterranean. Greece, Italy, and Spain are known for their olive varieties. It’s not uncommon to use the oil to dress a salad or to enjoy the whole olive fruit with cheese! Depending on the olive type, flavors vary widely. Olives may be salty, bitter, sweet, or even nutty in flavor. Regardless of how you like to enjoy olives, the fact remains that you can’t go far in the Mediterranean without experiencing the unique flavors of olives.
It brings people together
Food is an enjoyable aspect of life. People in the Mediterranean make it a point to enjoy meals together with friends, family, and neighbors. In countries like Greece, meals are even prepared together! Food is a central part of life for many in the Mediterranean. Food holds such great value because not only is it delicious, but it also lets people experience community.
Mediterranean food is more than meets the eye. It’s more than olive oil, pita, and hummus. Remember, the Mediterranean is vast, with lots of cultures and food customs! In popular culture, Mediterranean food is a buzz word due to its known health benefits, but an added plus is that it’s unique and delicious!