Traditional Eating Habits

Traditional eating habits of Mediterranean countries, and those countries along the basin, include olives, fish, lamb, wheat, rice, chick peas and other

In ancient times, sea trade brought many of the world's cultural and culinary achievements to the nations around the Mediterranean Sea. More recently, the Mediterranean diet—which features low-cholesterol foods such as vegetables and fish, and includes very little meat—has been recognized as one of the world's healthiest. [Photograph by Annebicque Bernard. Corbis. Reproduced by permission.]

legumes, pistachios, dates, cheese, and yogurt. Bread typically accompanies each meal.

Traditional food consumption includes the following:

• Dairy products. Most dairy products are eaten in fermented forms, such as yogurt and cheese. Whole milk is used in desserts and puddings. Feta cheese, traditionally made of sheep or goat's milk, is the most commonly consumed cheese.

• Meats. Lamb is the most widely eaten meat. Pork is eaten only by Christians, not by Muslims or Jews. Many Middle Easterners will not combine dairy products or shellfish with the meal. Kosher beef, kosher poultry, lox (brine-cured cold-smoked salmon, much of which is slightly saltier than other smoked salmon), and sardines are also common foods. Legumes such as black beans, chick peas (garbanzo beans), lentils, navy beans, fava beans, and red beans are used in many dishes.

• Breads and Cereals. Some form of wheat or rice accompanies each meal. Pita and matzoh (unleavened bread) are common. Filo dough, which is used to make baklava, is also used in many dishes.

• Fruits. Fruits tend to be eaten as dessert or as snacks. Fresh fruit is preferred. Fruits made into jams and compotes (a cooked preparation of fruit in syrup) are eaten if fresh fruit is not available. Lemons and concentrated lemon juice are commonly used for flavoring.

In ancient times, sea trade brought many of the world's cultural and culinary achievements to the nations around the Mediterranean Sea. More recently, the Mediterranean diet—which features low-cholesterol foods such as vegetables and fish, and includes very little meat—has been recognized as one of the world's healthiest. [Photograph by Annebicque Bernard. Corbis. Reproduced by permission.]

legumes: beans, peas, and related plants fast food: food requiring minimal preparation before eating, or food delivered very quickly after ordering in a restaurant processed food: food that has been cooked, milled, or otherwise manipulated to change its quality

• Vegetables. Potatoes and eggplant are the most commonly consumed vegetables. Fruit and vegetables are preferred raw or mixed in a salad. Vegetables are often stuffed with rice or meats. Green and black olives are present in many dishes, and olive oil is most frequently used in food preparation.

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