When it comes to international cuisine, few regions have as much variety and richness as the Mediterranean. With the wide range of cultures present, it’s no surprise that there is an amazing array of food styles. The diversity of the region is best appreciated with a sampling from everywhere, and often the easiest and most fun way of doing so is to take a cruise. Click here for information on some great cruise options. There are far too many great things about food to cover in just one article, but here are a few of the highlights you might be lucky enough to experience on a tour of the Mediterranean:
Greek food is known for its health benefits and focus on mezze-style eating: lots of small dishes, shared amongst a group. Olive oil features heavily, as do fresh vegetables, herbs, bread, filo pastry dishes like kotopita (stuffed with chicken) and spanakotyropita (overflowing with spinach and cheese), seafood, lamb, and other meats. Of course, it wouldn’t be Greece without copious amounts of wine or ouzo, an anise-flavored liquor. Expect to enjoy meals in good company over the course of several hours—according to ancient Greeks, this was one of the signs of a civilized society.
Italian cuisine is by far the region’s most recognizable style worldwide. Pastas and pizzas are the obvious standouts, but when visiting the country we recommend diversifying as much as possible. Regional diversity results in an astounding number of dishes that outsiders are entirely unfamiliar with. For something unique, check out guanciale, bottarga, and alba truffles. In general, Italian chefs utilize simple cooking techniques and fewer but higher quality ingredients to produce some of the healthiest and most flavorful dishes in the world.
Turkey’s location at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East has resulted in creative blends and unique flavors, with large variations between the Adriatic coast’s mezzes, the Black Sea coast’s seafood, and the southeastern region’s variety of elegantly spiced lamb and beef kebab dishes. Yogurt, chilies, fresh herbs, cheese, breads, olive oil, and more contribute to some of the most creative and tasty dishes around. Dessert is also sumptuous—until you’ve had Turkish baklava or kunefe, you haven’t really lived. Learn how to make your own here.
Meat, seafood, vegetables, grains, and spices—what more do you need? Paella, a simmering rice, vegetable, and seafood dish is deservedly one of the country’s most famous offerings. Spanish omelets are ubiquitous, as are sausages, soups and stews, and cheeses. In some regions, tapas are the preferred method of dining out, with tiny plates of delicacies consumed one after another over several hours (and several bottles). Spaniards are famous for their liberal attitudes towards drinking, so expect large quantities of wine or fresh, delicious sangria.
Moroccan meals are usually communal, with large dishes shared amongst family and friends. Hospitality is a key part of the culture, and you may find yourself welcomed into a home for a large meal. Ingredients more unique to the country’s dishes include dried and fresh fruit, nuts, saffron, and honey. Beef is the most common meat, and is served in delicious stews, tagine, or with couscous, the famous grain dish found all around the country. Moroccan sweets can be overpoweringly rich, and often include almond, cinnamon, and fruit wrapped in dough and soaked in honey or added to puddings.
Hungry yet? We are. Enjoy your trip!
Photo Credit: Mumumío