Where Did Middle Eastern Food Come From?
It’s possible to trace the history of a region through its food. Every culture in the world has started with the foods that are native to their homeland, but their diet expands every time that they meet another culture. The two cultures mix, they take the best things from each other’s cuisines, and they create things that are entirely new. Middle Eastern food is no exception that that rule, and it reflects that area’s history as both the birthplace of civilization and the point where European and Asian culture met.
The Fertile Crescent
The history of the Middle Eastern diet starts with the great cities of the Bronze Age that rose between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The area’s cuisine has changed a lot since then, but many of the core elements were already in place. The region’s farmers were the first to grow wheat and barley, but they also grew figs and dates. Legumes, such as lentils and garbanzo beans were popular as a source of protein. They had a reasonably healthy diet, which was dominated by vegetarian food due to the economics of the time, and that diet forms the basis for modern Middle Eastern Food.
Crossroads of the World
The Middle East is in a unique position, since anybody who wants to travel between Europe and East Asia on foot needs to cross through it. That turned the region into a center of trade and cultural exchange, and it was that cultural exchange that allowed the Bronze Age diet to transition into modern cuisine.
Rice and many of the fruits that are popular in the Middle East came about as a result of trade and war with Asia. In particular, many of the spices that became associated with Middle Eastern food came from India. European contact introduced several vegetables into the region, and native agricultural innovations made meat such as chicken and lamb cheaper and more popular. Vegan food was still popular and a major part of most people’s diets, but most of the area’s popular meat dishes can be traced back to the periods of trade during the Classical and Medieval periods.
The Modern Middle East
Food never stops changing. Modern technology makes it easier than ever for people to travel and communicate, and that has helped to spread Middle Eastern cuisine all over the world. Hybrid cuisine, like pizza that includes traditionally Middle Eastern foods as toppings, are available now, but they would have been impossible even a century ago. The diversity of Middle Eastern food has made it popular with corporate catering services as well as catering for individual parties, and its adaptability means that even though this cuisine has been around for thousands of years, it will be popular for thousands more to come.