Mediterranean cuisine is the foods and methods of preparation by people of the Mediterranean Basin region, especially those of Southern Europe. The idea of a Mediterranean cuisine originates with the cookery writer Elizabeth David’s book, A Book of Mediterranean Food (1950). She and other writers including the Tunisian historian Mohamed Yassine Essid define the three core elements of the cuisine as the olive, wheat, and the grape, yielding olive oil, bread and pasta, and wine; other writers emphasize the diversity of the region’s foods and deny that it is a useful concept. The geographical area covered broadly follows the distribution of the olive tree, as noted by David and Essid.
The region spans a wide variety of cultures with distinct cuisines, in particular (going anticlockwise around the region) the Maghrebi, Levantine, Ottoman (Turkish), Greek, Italian, Provençal (French), Spanish, and Portuguese. However, the historical connections of the region, as well as the impact of the Mediterranean Sea on the region’s climate and economy, mean that these cuisines share dishes beyond the core trio of oil, bread, and wine, such as roast lamb or mutton, meat stews with vegetables and tomato (for example, Spanish andrajos and Italian ciambotta), and the salted cured fish roe, bottarga, found across the region. Spirits based on anise are drunk in many countries around the Mediterranean.
The cooking of the area is not to be confused with the Mediterranean diet, made popular because of the apparent health benefits of a diet rich in olive oil, wheat and other grains, fruits, vegetables, and a certain amount of seafood, but low in meat and dairy products. Mediterranean cuisine encompasses the ways that these and other ingredients, including meat, are dealt with in the kitchen, whether they are health-giving or not.