The Mediterranean sea is a large sea that borders three continents, Europe, Northern Africa, and South-Western Asia. The modern day countries that make up the region of the Mediterranean include Algeria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey, as they all border the Mediterranean Sea.
Development of food production and food culture in the mediterranean:
- Farmers began cultivating cereals, wheat, barley and legumes.
Farmers developed colonies in these regions which had an ideal climate for crop growing that is hot summers and cool wet winters.
- The colonies also began domesticating animals and it has been shown they kept sheep, goats and pigs.
Many seafaring people lived on the shores of the Mediterranean so fishing skills soon developed and fish and shellfish became important food sources.
Regional influences on food production in Spain:
In the 4th century BCE, the Greeks began moving into the coastal regions of Spain and brought with them highly developed skills in grain production and in methods of storing grain for longer periods of time.
This allowed grain production in the area to increase dramatically and allowed the Greeks to export grain back home to their colonies.
During this time the greeks also bought with them their knowledge of fishing and collecting shellfish, fish and shellfish have become a key part of the cuisine in Spain.
- Romans developed methods of food preservation, particularly salting and air-drying fish, which enabled the fishing industry to flourish.
- The Romans also introduced stone fruits, such as apricots, peaches, lemons and melons in Spain.
The Moors who arrived in Spain in 711 CE, were nomadic people from North Africa.
- The Moors introduced honey, citrus fruit, almonds and spices including cumin and saffron into Spanish cuisine.
Spanish explorers also brought back many exotic new foods such as tomatoes, potatoes, corn, peppers, chocolate and vanilla from their voyages across the Atlantic to the Americas in the late 1400s.
Geography and climate:
The countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea, including Spain, share a climate that can have warm to hot summers and winters that are cool to mild.
As a result of these climatic conditions, many of these countries often experience drought in the summer, conversely they can experience periods of high rainfall in the winter.
- These climatic conditions are ideal for growing olives and grapes, and these crops became important in the early development of agriculture in Spain.
The Pyrenees Mountains un across the north of the country and divide Spain from France. Sheep and cattle grazing are widespread throughout the mountain plateaus.
While the interior valleys have a typical Mediterranean climate, they have rich soils and are therefore important agricultural regions in Spain.
During the 800 years hen the Moors dominated Spain, the Islamic faith was the predominant religion.
At about the same time as the Moor occupation, Spain also had a significant community of Sephardi Jews.
However, in the 1400s Christian forces eventually took control of the country, the Roman Catholic Church became dominant and Muslims and Jews were forced to convert to Catholicism.
The Catholic Church introduced over 200 days of fasting as a means of absolving themselves of sin. During periods of fasting, meat was replaced by salt cod and believers were banned from eating a wide range of other foods.
Traditional foods in Spain:
Spanish cuisine has been shaped by the influence of the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans and the Moors, who all brought various ingredients, recipes and cooking techniques into the country.
- Olive oil, a key ingredient in Spanish cuisine, was introduced by the Phoenicians, who planted the original olive trees in approximately 650 BCE.
- Rice, which was introduced by the Moors is another important ingredient used in Spanish cuisine.
- Paella, one of Spain's most famous dishes, is made from rice, onion, garlic, tomatoes, chorizo, shellfish, peas and beans. Paella is though to originated in Valencia, a major city on the eastern seashore of Spain.
- Gazpacho is another famous Spanish dish, a cold soup with tomato and garlic base was originally developed in the Andalusia region of southern Spain. It is linked back to the Romans and Moors.
- Churros a better like dough that is usually deep fried, is also though to have originated in Spain. Today churros are considered to be a sweet treat or dessert rolled in cinnamon and sugar and may even be dipped in chocolate rather than a plain breakfast food.
Lunch of almuerzo is the main meal of the day.