The Phoenicians 1500-332 BCE
This group (they invented the alphabet actually) thrived through their manufacture of prized goods and maritime trade across the Mediterranean sea. Because they were highly skilled shipbuilders and traders, the Phoenicians facilitated the sharing and transfer of spices and ingredients from across the ancient world, spreading once solitary ingredients abroad into the greater world.
Fast forward through Alexander the Great, Rome, and many more, one of the largests influences has come from…
The Middle East: A Hub of Crossroads
This land, referred to by scholars as “The Fertile Crescent”, is where a number of staple crops were first cultivated such as: wheat, dates, barley, pistachios, dates, pomegranates, and figs. In fact, the oldest written recipes – beer for example, where fermentation was discovered from the process of leavening bread – were discovered here in Mesopotamia.
As a crossroads between Asia (connected by the ancient “Silk Roads”), North Africa, and Europe, this area has long been a hub of culinary trade. Okra came from Africa. Mongol conquests saw the introduction of spices from India and Indonesia (spice Islands): turmeric, cloves, and peppercorns. Later Spanish conquest (described more below), saw the introduction of “new world” crops, such as tomatoes, to the area.
The land of the Middle East and Mediterranean was primed geographically for the diverse range of food ingredients and culinary influences seen today in Mediterranean cuisine.