Perhaps it was the Americans who coined the word ‘a mediterranean diet’ sometime around the 1970’s when the American Diabetes Association wrote about a diet which is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, beans, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.
This pleased the Italians who made a slight change by replacing the word ‘diet’ which has a burdensome meaning to the word ‘cuisine’ which has an elegant sound to it.
Obviously, Mediterranean Cuisine is not simply the domain of the Italians, although I must add that it is my favourite, especially the cuisines of Southern Italy and Sicily. Think of the cuisines of Abruzzo, Molise, Puglia, Campania, Basilcata, Calabria and the whole of Sicily. Each of these cuisines deserve a dedicated blog to try to do justice to their awesomeness.
So think also, Maghrebi cuisine from North Africa such as couscous. Think Levantine Cuisine from the Middle Eastern Mediterranean coast such as, tabbouleh; wheat with tomatoes, parsley and mint and drizzled with olive oil and hummus. I personally love most dishes from the levant such as their aubergine puree, mixed with olive oil, onions, tomatoes and cummin and drizzled with lemon juice.
But there’s more. Ottoman or Turkish cuisine is also part of the Mediterranean culinary family. Think Greek which sometimes has much in common with Turkish such as, moussaka and bechamel sauce. I still think of Lamb chops and yoghurt when Greece comes to mind but of course, Greek cuisine is very rich with all types of meat and fish.
Mediterranean French Cuisine is also rich in fish dishes; imagine bouillabaisse a speciality fish stew from Marseille, or Insalata Nizzarda – Salad Nicoise from Nice from where Socca, an unleavened pancake also comes.
Spain’s Mediterranean seaboard, provides us with mouthwatering dishes such as paella which originated from Valencia. This dish can come in a variety of ways including, mixed, seafood, vegatables and with chicken or rabbit to name but a few.
And of course there is Maltese cuisine, with comfort food such as timpani which is a baked pasta dish covered with pastry, or thin slices of beef stuffed with minced beef called Bragioli (beef olives) and whilst there are no olives in bragioli the word ‘olive comes from the old English verb, ‘to olive’ meaning ‘to roll it up’.
From all the different cuisines in the World, I relish the cuisine of the Mediterranean and perhaps the one main ingredient that gives them the bond to each other is the mighty olive.
James Davis is the COO of Bay Street Group that operates be.HOTEL