The Mediterranean Alisha rieschieck

The development of food production and food culture in the mediterranean

Agriculture began in the Mediterranean region in approximately 1000 BCE, when the early farmers began cultivating cereals, particularly wheat and Barley and legumes. Colonies were developed in these regions which provided the ideal climate necessary for crop growing, which was hot summers and cool wet winters. Animals were also domesticated, including sheep, goats and pigs. Fishing is a vital part of Mediterranean life, fish and shellfish are important food sources.

Regional influences on food production in Spain

Spain, along with Portugal and Gibraltar, is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Spain is the largest country situated along the Iberian Peninsula and makes up approximately 85% of the land mass. The food culture and cuisine of Spain has been largely influenced by invading forces. Between the 6th and 7th centuries BCE, the Phoenicians, natives of the Fertile Crescent arrived on the Iberian Peninsula, the were great maritime traders and brought olive trees to Spain. In the 4th century BCE, the Greeks brought highly developed skills in grain production and storing grain for longer periods of time. Which allowed for grain production in the area to increase dramatically and also allowed the Greeks to export grain back to their home colonies. They also brought with them the knowledge of fishing and collecting shell fish which is now a key part of the cuisine in Spain. In the 2nd century BCE, the Romans arrived in Spain and were will respected for their knowledge and expertise in agricultural production and transportation systems.

Geography and climate

The climate around the Mediterranean sea, including Spain, share a climate that can have warm to hot summers but also winters that are cool to mild. As a result of these conditions many countries in this region experience drought in the summer but can also receive high rainfall in the winter. These conditions are ideal for growing olives, grapes which became important in the early development of agriculture in Spain.

The Pyrenees Mountains run across the north of the country and provides a border between France and Spain. Throughout the mountains cattle grazing is wide spread from the Mountains in the North and the Bay of Biscay to the interior valleys of Spain there is a steppe-like climate which is rich in soil and provide important agricultural regions for Spain.

Religion

The Islamic faith became a dominant religion during the 800 years when the Moors dominated Spai, during this same time there was also a significant community of Sephardi Jews. In the 1400s, Christian forces took control of the country. The Roman Catholic Church also became dominant then Muslims and Jews were forced to convert to catholicism. During this period of time the Catholic Church introduced 200 days of fasting as it was a means of ridding themselves of sin. During these fasting periods, meat was replaced by salted cod, and believers were banned from eating a wide range of other foods. The Catholic Church also required people who were converting to Catholicism to eat pork as a symbol of their loyalty to the church and a rejection to their previous faith.

Traditional foods of Spain

Spainsh cuisine has been largely influenced by the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans and the Moors which all provided a basis for different ingredients, recipes, and cooking techniques. One key ingredient of Spain is olive oil, which was introduced by the Phoenicians who first planted the olive tree. Today, Spain has over 300 million olive trees and is one of the largest producers of olive oil in the world. Rice, which was also introduced by the Moors is another important part of Spanish cuisine. Calasparra is considered to be the best rice for cooking paella, which is one of Spain's most famous dishes which is made from rice, onion, garlic, tomato, chorizo, shellfish, peas and beans. Another famous dish from Spain is Gazpacho, which is a cold soup with a tomato and garlic base which was originally developed in southern Spain. The soup was prepared historically, by mixing stale bread, oil, garlic and vinegar together with a liquid. A famous Spanish dessert is churros which is a batter-like dough which is usually deep-fried

Meal structure

In Spain, lunch is the main meal of the day, a typical Spanish person starts their day with a light breakfast of coffee and a pastry. Then lunch occurs between 2pm and 4pm with a range of courses form a light salad, soup which is followed by a main meal of meat or fish and ends with a cake or flan. The Spanish then eat dinner late in the evening, normally not before 9pm, dinner is normally a light meal of salad or tapas.

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