The classical cultures
Classical Greece was not only the cradle of great artists and philosophers but also the place of the origin of the trilogy consisting of bread, oil and wine – the base of the Mediterranean diet. When the Greeks discovered olive oil they used it primarily as a condiment but they also found other purposes for it. These included using it as a body balm and as fuel for lighting. Their wine, which they mixed with water, resin or with herbs, was famous throughout the Mediterranean. Bread, for the Greeks was the staple food and they created as many as 72 varieties of it.
The Greeks were also responsible for the delicacy and sophistication of culinary art achieved through the use of seasoning and herbs. The Greeks invented the concept of dieting. The “diaita” or way of life, sought a balance between the body and the spirit. Although the Greeks would follow medical advice, each person decided which foods and exercises where the most beneficial through the observation of their body. For this reason, they identified the Gods with natural phenomena and everyday activities. The Magna Grecia was the home of Archestratus of Gela, the first writer of culinary history during the fifth century BC. He wrote the poem Gastronomy, a compendium of the kitchen of that time.
The Roman Empire
Rome, as for the rest of its culture, followed the path of the Greeks even for their cuisine, perfecting it with the improvement of the cultivation of vine and olives. Thanks to its vast empire Rome spread new foods, such as lemon, fish and melon.
Arrived from the New World
The discovery of America represented the integration of new foods in the Mediterranean cuisine. Among the products that stand out the most were red peppers and beans. Beans became a fundamental legume in the Mediterranean from the nineteenth century onwards. Tomatoes also deserve a special mention – together with potatoes, the tomato is one of the fundamental ingredients in Italian and Spanish dishes.