Mediterranean food is hard to define. Over 20 countries border the Mediterranean Sea and they are as diverse and disparate as Algeria, Greece and Spain. One thing that certainly seems to unite these countries is the delicious food but claiming any one thing as the quintessential Mediterranean dish is probably unwise. Any Europe trip worth it’s salt covers the major western Mediterranean countries – Spain, France and Italy – but a quick pit stop on Croatia’s sandy shores will give you a glimpse of an entirely different Mediterranean culture.
Spain’s take on Mediterranean food involves a glorious amount of fresh seafood and the different provinces each have a very different take. Visit Andalucia and the beautiful city of Seville for the birthplace of gazpacho – a cold vegetable soup – and some of Spain’s famous Serrano ham. Better yet Seville is less than three hours train from Madrid, the nation’s capital and a city that claims to have invented the modern restaurant.
The South of France boasts all the best of classic French cuisine – bouillabaisse, ratatouille, French onion soup – and combines it with a Catalan influence. If you didn’t get a chance to check out Barcelona’s open air markets and their massive pots of paella, Provence’s “bourrides” will be your next best bet. Visit Arles and the Camargue for some of the region’s richest flavors. The massive saltwater marshes produce special red rice that features prominently in the cuisine. The region also boasts large sheep and goat populations so be sure to have some local goat cheese with your baguette and glass of wine.
You can find an Italian restaurant just about anywhere in the world. However you’ll have a much harder time finding the standard spaghetti and meatballs fare in Italy than you would in New Jersey. When we talk about authentic Italian food it’s a little bit more sophisticated. Visit the Northern coast and the Genoa region, particularly Cinque Terre for the birthplace of pesto. Try risotto almost anywhere and you’ll something new in every city you visit.
Finally, if you’re looking for something a little bit off the beaten track visit Croatia and try their take on Mediterranean cuisine. The city of Dubrovnik is incredibly beautiful and with the beach so close by you can taste the freshness of the local fish and seafood.