The bountiful cuisine of the Mediterranean evokes thoughts of luscious grains, pasta, vegetables, fruits, and, of course, olive oil. The colorful vegetables and rich taste of olive oil make this cuisine a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. The traditional Mediterranean diet is based on the dietary traditions of Crete, the rest of Greece, and southern Italy. Variations on the diet come from other parts of Italy, parts of Spain, Portugal, southern France, parts of North Africa, parts of Turkey, and even parts of the Middle East! As a way to provide you with a well-rounded look at Mediterranean cuisines, this book includes recipes that embrace all of these regions. The unique flavors of these regions have caused some enthusiasts to call this the best cuisine on earth!
When doing research for this book it became evident that an important decision had to be made: Should the book include recipes made only with foods indigenous to the Mediterranean regions or should the book include foods that people in the Mediterranean cook and eat, even if the foods are not grown or produced in the area? In order to give the widest variety of foods to suit everyone's taste and budget, it was decided to include the latter. Who can resist such temptations as walnut pesto, roasted vegetables, and sun-drenched poached apples?
The Mediterranean lifestyle has been touted to bless its recipients with a long and healthy life. Research indicates that the people in these regions have the lowest rates of chronic diseases and one of the highest life expectancies in the world. This is astonishing when coupled with the fact that medical services and income are fairly limited, compared to the United States. So why does the Mediterranean lifestyle work? It works because it isn't only a diet. It works because it's a lifestyle, and a diet.
The dietary component is not broken down into exact percentages of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats; it's a loose framework that includes intake guidelines. The food portion contains a lot of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Vegetables are at the center of the plate. Added to this are small amounts of dairy, fish, poultry, and meat. The fat in this diet comes mostly in the form of unsaturated olive oil and nuts. These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals (plant substances that are thought to decrease risk factors for several diseases).
To attain success the dietary portion of the Mediterranean Food Guide Pyramid is coupled with lifestyle factors that include frequent moderate exercise, increased water intake, and optional consumption of wine. A closer look at these factors gives you an understanding of why they are integral to the success of this lifestyle.
Sit back, relax, and feel the balmy climate of the Mediterranean. Envision the charming villages and the quiet lifestyle. Picture the vivid colors of the cuisine and fragrances that parallel them. Enjoy as we explore the many feasts celebrating this wonderful cuisine. It offers all of the pleasure and none of the guilt!