Chestnut Street Inn

Make It Mediterranean, Make It Fresh

Most of you know that I love mediterranean cuisine and cook it here at the inn frequently. But what is mediterranean cuisine, why is it special and how can you recreate it at home. First of all, the countries surrounding the mediterranean are all countries that have very distinctive food cultures that vary regionally, taking advantage of locally available, seasonal resources. Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, in all of these countries people live to eat. Don’t be mistaken, people don’t live in wealth, luxury and abundance, but rather they relish every meal they have and enjoy it with ultimate pleasure. Food here isn’t eaten simply for survival, consumption is social and represents centuries of tradition that has been passed down from one generation to the next. It is all too common for people in these countries to be planning their next meal as they enjoy their current meal, fantasizing about the incredible produce or meat they may have found at the marketplace that very morning. The concept of fast food and supersized foods is foreign. As is the concept of sitting in front of the television eating off of a little tray while shoveling food into your mouth. You take the time to eat, enjoying the experience with others and appreciating the care that was taken in the preparation of what you are eating.

Most of these cultures utilize healthy oils, like olive, grapeseed and argan oils, which are low in cholesterol and high in omega 3 fatty acids. They also tend to eat more vegetables and less meat and have mastered the art of coaxing maximum flavor out of every part of the vegetable as well as every part of an animal, prime cut or offal. Nothing goes to waste and everything is sublime. The use of fresh herbs and spices is also critical in all of these cultures. It isn’t merely a method of cooking, but an artform. Perhaps the most incredible moment I spent in Morocco was in a spice shop where I learned not only what spices to use to spice what dishes, but how each and every spice had a medicinal purpose and people here really knew how to eat for their health and enjoyment. It was eye opening to say the least.

In the next few postings I would like to expand on Mediterranean cuisine of all kinds and discuss specific elements of what makes this region unique and uniquely delicious. I’ll also focus on how to incorporate some of these ideas into your own cooking, adapting it to your own lifestyles and to the areas you live in. Just because you live in a big city, doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy locally produced meats, eggs and vegetables. And for those of you in a rural area where most people are used to a real meat and potatoes lifestyle, I’ll show you how you can apply mediterranean concepts to your routine and begin to expand your culinary horizons. Make it Mediterranean, Make it Fresh isn’t a gimmick, it is a statement encompassing the essence of how the cultures of the mediterranean eat. Eat fresh, eat local, and by all means enjoy what you consume by sharing it with others. I think we can all stand to learn something from this philosophy and it would certainly improve our quality of living drastically.

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