Why Is Middle Eastern Food Classified As Mediterranean?
When it comes to food cuisines and categories, sometimes specific food cuisines are mentioned interchangeably. This is way more likely when Middle Eastern food is classified as Mediterranean. Geographical proximity plays a role here. But what are other similarities in these cuisines? And most important of all, why does this happen?
Even though Middle Eastern cuisine usually comprises kebabs, falafel, and shawarma, and Mediterranean food is usually pizzas, kinds of pasta, and gyros, there are some similarities in the food palette of the two. Mediterranean cuisine is the food of the different cultures that share the Mediterranean Sea. In comparison, Middle Eastern food is the food of the Middle Eastern region. These are regions such as Arab, Iranian, Turkish, Israeli, etc. Being close to the sea is bound to have some impact on the way food is prepared.
Middle Eastern Food and Mediterranean cuisine are classified into the same category as they both use olive oil, have a similar spice palette, use lots of fruits and vegetables in their food preparation, and have some resembling food preferences.
Here are some of these similar methods or ingredients of the two cuisines. These similarities are why Middle Eastern food is often considered Mediterranean.
1. Use of Olive Oil
As you must know, olive oil is a staple when cooking Mediterranean food. But Middle Eastern cuisine also uses olive oil. Olive oil is an excellent source of vitamin E, antioxidants and good fat. The oil is extensively grown within the Mediterranean region and has been exported to its neighbouring areas for centuries. This is one major similarity in both these food categories.
2. Extensive Use of Vegetables
Both these people love to eat their vegetables. The most common are eggplant, potatoes, zucchini, artichokes, okra, garlic, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, spinach and cucumbers. One can notice the distinct cultural differences in the way food is prepared in different regions. The Mediterranean region purees their tomatoes, while the Middle Eastern steam or saute them.
3. Love for Seafood
Both regions are more into seafood, which sometimes surprises people. They include fish, usually salmon and tuna. Although the Middle East may consist of lamb, chicken, mutton, etc., Mediterranean food usually has beef, pork and other variants in their cuisine. Nevertheless, their love for seafood remains the same.
4. Spice Palette
If one wants to pin down the most relevant reason why Middle Eastern food is classified as Mediterranean, it has to be because of their standard spice palette. Spices and their varied combinations are what make a dish what it is. We can recognise the delicacy even while it’s cooking by the aroma that reaches our nostrils.
As both these cuisines include spices such as thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano, parsley, mint, garlic, fennel, saffron, tarragon, etc., they tend to have a mild resemblance. Moreover, these spices cooked in olive oil bring out unique flavours that sometimes seem similar.
5. They are healthy food
One aspect of these cuisines is that they can have vegan dishes. Contrary to popular belief, not every Mediterranean food must have dairy or cheese. Likewise, Middle Eastern food does not have such a compulsion as well. Many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes are vegan. Some popular Middle Eastern vegan dishes are falafel, Tabbouleh, dolma, etc.
Mediterranean food is also primarily focused on including vegetables, fish, portion control and walking after a meal. Both these are very healthy diets to follow. This is evident in how slim European and Middle Eastern people are.
6. Use Of Hummus
Hummus is a dip made from chickpeas ground finely with some spices. Hummus is a prevalent dish throughout the world. Moreover, it is something both Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes include in their recipes.
7. Meat Restrictions
The religious aspects and dietary restrictions that come with them also assimilate with the cuisine. Most Middle Eastern cultures have a sizeable Muslim population. This makes Middle Eastern food cater to the diet of a typical Muslim household. As a result, many Middle Eastern foods do not include pork in their diet and include halal meat only.
Israeli food, which constitutes the Mediterranean diet, follows Jewish dietary rules and directions. That is why they have kosher food diets. Kosher food is food prepared based on the laws given by the Jewish prophet. Interestingly, Jews also shun pork meat.
The Christians in the region do not have these specific diet restrictions that the Muslim and Jew populations follow. As a result, they eat pork meat. Therefore, Mediterranean food can consist of pork or other non-kosher foods and non-halal meats. However, the option of having food based on Jewish or Muslim religious laws exists.