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Feb 6, 2008 08:05 PM

difference b/w Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine

Sorry to sound naïve, but I am learning about cooking through cookbooks, looking at restaurant menus online, and both Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine are melding in my mind. I keep reading about foods like bugler, lentils, hummus, olive oil, etc. associated with both these cultures/regions. What is the difference? Is Greece and France considered Med.? Once again, I apologize for my ignorance (keep in mind I am a newbie and trying to learn!)


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  1. The Middle East and mediterranean region overlap. Greek, Turkish, and the Arab foods of certain countries that were part of the Ottoman empire, share a lot of cooking styles, dishes, and ingredients. However, the same dishes take on regional variation. For example, and Egyptian ba'lawa (baklava) would more likely be made with walnuts, while a Syrian one would be made with pistachios and have a bit of orange essence in the syrup. Or Turkish dolma would be seasoned with dill, while a Lebanese wara' ainab (dolma or stuffed vine leaf) would be seasoned with flat leaf parsley. I don't know much about French food, but I think that falls into a different regional category, as does Spanish. Food in the Balkans, however, does share some of that Greek/Turkish/Middle East commonality, once again because of the Turkish historical influences on that region.

    1. If you look at a map, it will become clear.

      There are distinct cuisines throughout the Mediterranean. Starting on its northern shores and working east, you have the distinctiveness of each of Spain, France and Italy (and , of course, the differing cusines within those parts of the countires which are away from the sea. Greece, Turkey and Cyprus have similarities and, as you move eastwards you get into what would normally be thought of as "middle eastern". I think of "middle eastern" as eastwards from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine and through Iraq and Iran. As you reach the eastern part of Iran, you then find similarities with, say, Pakistani food.

      Returning to the Med., the cuisine changes again along the North African coast, now travelling back westwards. There are still "middle eastern" influences but there are distinct herbs, spices and other flavourings. As you find yourself in Morocco, you'll find similarities with the cusine of southern Spain - but then it is only 8 miles away.

      If you're using different cookbooks, you'll be able to relate the different ingredients to the nationalities and, I'm sure, it all make much more sense.