Due to the diversity of Mediterranean countries, belonging to different continents – Europe, Africa, Asia –, many people are convinced there is no such thing as a unique Mediterranean identity. But is that really true? Our writer Merna Menessi reflects.
“There is no Mediterranean identity, but Mediterranean identities. Mediterranean is not about the homogeneity and uniformity, but about the unity that comes from diversities, contacts, and interconnections“ writes Borna Fuerst-Bjeliš in Mediterranean Identities.
And what brings us together?
By that, I mean things most of us did and felt while having a cup of tea or coffee alone in a small café by the sea; having lunch with friends or family in a fancy restaurant with a sea view; walking on the seashore happy, sad or relaxed;
Listening to an old song while walking by small vintage stores, or stories our grandparents tell us about vacations; going on family trips on weekends – something that Mediterranean people taught to the world – things that will always be kept as memories in our hearts.
Due to the climate, common ingredients are spread all over the Mediterranean countries. However, the use of some ingredients might differ and can surprise you; for example, using olive oil instead of butter, having lots of vegetables per meal or even a small portion of red meat at lunch or dinner.
The Mediterranean diet is a term that describes what’s traditionally on the menu in Mediterranean countries. The limited intake of red meat comes from our old traditions of having it on occasion. Now, this tradition turned to eating small portions of any meat each day, Daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats is something all our past cultures were well known for.
Most Mediterranean families have fish for lunch one to two days per week. That made us all masters of cooking fish and other seafood. The consumption of dairy, though, is small (low-fat Greek or plain yogurt; small amounts of a variety of cheeses, etc.).
Finally, one of the things we are all well known for are herbs and spices, such as rosemary or parsley that take the flavor to a whole new level and lessen the need for salt.
From these same ingredients, each country created a magical cuisine of its own: Greek salad, kebab, tortilla española, taboola, spanakopita, baba ghanoush, hummus, paella, ratatouille, Greek gyros, Tuscan chicken, baklava, and so on.
Cooking together as a family is one of the oldest traditions we share that was passed on from to generation to generation. It is also very common to eat as many meals as possible with family. We eat to enjoy, and at the same time our portions are just the right size for us to stay healthy. We grew up to love eating outside, in places with a view – often, a view of the sea.
Most Mediterranean countries have a very rich history which is the source of many stories and myths about heroes, sailors, sea monsters, etc.
Most cultures have an entangled history. Therefore, ancient musical instruments and lyrics to old songs have been alike, since living in a similar environment resulted in facing similar situations or problems.
Despite the borders between us, we have always been connected and have strong bonds. That is also the aim of Rotaract Mediterranean MDIO – developing the international relationships and fostering cultural exchange between Rotaract clubs and districts from its member districts and countries from all over the Mediterranean region. Rotaract Mediterranean supports the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN which address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace and justice.
Photo credits Pinterest.com
BY Merna Menessi