Thursday, November 5, 2009

Middle Eastern Food

The region of the Middle East was the site of great ancient civilizations, Mesopotamia and Egypt, as well as the birthplace of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Today the term Middle East is also used in a cultural sense for that part of the world predominantly Islamic in culture, in which case Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the remaining countries of North Africa are included. The cooking that developed from country to country bears similarities as well as differences, but most of the cooking had its origins in what we may call 'tent cooking.'

Geographic borders have been defined and redefined through the centuries, but many of the roots of Middle Eastern cooking can be found in the country of Israel. Israel is located in the South West corner of the Asian continent and at the South Eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Geographically it is at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. It is bordered by Lebanon to the North, Syria to the North East, Jordan to the East and Egypt to the South West. Its Western shoreline is on the Mediterranean Sea and it occupies a narrow strip at the extreme South along the Red Sea. Together with the country's non-Jewish citizens - Muslim and Christian Arabs, Bedouin, and Druze this melting pot gives the country its exceptional cuisine flavour.

Though often utilizing similar ingredients and cultural tastes, Middle Eastern Food can refer to a wide range of cuisines, from North African to Turkish, from Armenian to Israeli. The dishes frequently contain flatbreads such as pita and legumes such as chickpeas or beans. Many dishes do not include meat, making Middle Eastern cuisine a great option for vegetarians.

The Middle Eastern food is closely tied to Mediterranean food and often uses lamb and rice
Other common elements: Pita, honey, chickpeas, olives, tahini, lemons, cumin, yogurt, lentils, eggplant

Cuisine Characteristics

Middle Eastern cuisine is defined by the region and the traditions of the people that live there. With the warm climate, foods like grapes, lemons, olives, mint, parsley and eggplant are commonly grown and found in many dishes. Because pork is neither kosher nor halal, most Jews and Muslims do not eat it, and it is thus a rarity in Middle Eastern food. Lamb or mutton are much more common than beef. Because the Koran forbids alcohol, Middle Eastern dishes are not cooked in wine or other alcoholic beverages.

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