Wednesday, March 21, 2012

History of Middle Eastern Food

Like foods from all over the World, Middle Eastern food has many influences. These influences range from geographical influences to religious influences. For example, olives and olive oil have long been prominent in the area and therefore are a big part of the cuisine ("Explore crete," 2011). Olive trees were native to the area and are among the oldest known cultivated trees in the world ("Explore crete," 2011). Other common ingredients, however, made their way to the region throughout history from various places. For example, rice and tea were brought from China, tomatoes came during the Columbian Exchange and coffee arrived from Ethiopia through Yemen (Yee, 1996). All of these influences together make Middle Eastern food what it is today.

Rice is probably the most common part of Middle Eastern food (Rost, 1997). Pita bread is eaten with most meals. It has a practical purpose as well as being delicious in that it is often used as a utensil for eating. Common spices used in Middle Eastern foods include cumin, garlic, sumac, and turmeric, all of which originally came from India (Nunn, Qian, 2010). Tomatoes are used in different ways—they can be the base for a sauce which vegetables and meat are frequently added to, but they also are used in more than one traditional salad. For their meats, lamb and chicken would be more commonly used than beef or fish, and pork is forbidden to the Muslims and Jews in the area.

Hot tea and coffee are consumed daily. Tea can be served plain or other flavors might be added. Popular add-ins are mint, sage, and licorice. Most people like their tea sweet! Once coffee arrived in the region it became very popular and from there it spread across the world (Winkler, 1999). The method used to brew the coffee, discovered during the Ottoman Empire, includes beans roasted over a fire, ground, and then boiled in water (Winkler, 1999). This is why it is frequently called Turkish Coffee.

In my coming posts I hope to provide more detailed recipes and information about how these and other ingredients can be prepared to create a delicious authentic Middle Eastern meal.


Explore crete. (2011). Retrieved from

Nunn, N., & Qian N. (2010). Journal of economic perspectives. Retrieved from

Rost, T. L. (1997). Retrieved from

Winkler, P. (1999). National geographic. Retrieved from

Yee, L. (2011). The chinese historical and cultural project. Retrieved from

1 comment:

  1. I’ve been learning how to cook for the past few years, and I simply love to find recipes from different regions to try out (as well as expand my spice rack). I’ve looked at your posted recipes and am very excited to try them out in the near future.

    The history of a region’s cuisine is a fascinating subject in that you can literally see how certain aspects of culture evolved along with the introduction of new ingredients. One can even speak volumes of its culture through current cuisine. Which region do you believe had the most influence on the food and, potentially, culture of the Middle East?