What’s in a Name?
The high end grocery store near my store was featuring the foods of Greece this last week, so I picked up some of the fresh fava beans and fresh chickpeas that they had in stock. I have never worked with either of these veggies before, and I thought they would make a couple of good blog posts. Which they have.
But I don’t consider chickpeas and fava beans particularly Greek, so much as Mediterranean. There are lots of food items that the countries of the Mediterranean share: Olives and olive oil, lemons, rosemary, wheat…all of these ingredients are the heroes of Greek, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Morroccan cuisine.
Know your Agricultural Regions
This is only a partial list of Mediterranean ingredients, and a partial list of Mediterranean countries. But I think you get the idea: It’s not the country that makes an ingredient popular, but the ability to grow it easily and abundantly.
If you are an armchair culinary tourist (as I have been for long stretches while raising my boys) it’s a little difficult to remember which ingredient pertains to which country. Are olives popular in Portuguese cuisine? How about rosemary in Lebanese food? When you are trying to determine the authenticity of a dish and its ingredients, don’t think about political borders. Look at agricultural regions.
Location, Location, Location
So even though the market was promoting their “Greekfest” I bought their “Greek” produce to make very traditional Spanish food combinations. Chickpeas and fava beans are just as vital to Spanish cuisine as they are to Greek.
As with real estate, tracking down the authenticity of a recipe is all about location, location, location. Why is authenticity import? Well, as an armchair culinary tourist, your goal is to take your tastebuds on the journey while your body stays at home. Ingredients are the points on your recipe map that will take you to you desired culinary destination.