Cuisine is a culinary term that refers to the characteristic cooking style and tradition associated with a specific culture.Cuisines are often named after the region where they originated or the place where the parent culture is present. They may also be named after the religion or race of the people primarily following the cooking style. Several practices like the primary ingredients used, cooking techniques employed, way of serving or presenting the food, food combinations, etc. influence the characteristics of a cuisine.
Cuisine, or cooking style, developed right from the time man learnt to cook and the first human civilization was created. Climate and availability of raw materials are the basic factors that seem to have played an important role in the development of early cuisines. For instance, Mongolians hardly used any plant based foods in their cooking for the basic reason that vegetables were not available to them in the early days. Japanese cooking uses a lot of seafood due to its easy availability.
As civilizations developed and religions and economic strata formed, newer cuisines developed, which were influenced by other factors like economic stability, availability of imported food stuffs, access to fuel, time available for cooking, etc. For instance, the lower caste Indians hardly used frying to prepare dishes, because oil was too expensive for them to use. Similarly, high class Romans used wine, whereas the slaves and tribes living on the borders of Rome drank bitter beer, due to inaccessibility to grapes. Today, several new cuisines have developed with a global cuisine being the order of the day.
Factors that Determine a Cuisine
Cuisine, be it in the yesteryears or today, have developed due to several underlying factors that are unique to the group of people who form that particular food culture. These factors determine the use of basic ingredients, cooking styles, medium of cooking, speed of cooking, food combinations, etc. Some of these factors have been enlisted below:
- Climate: Climate has always been the strongest influential factor since the olden days. Climate dictates several aspects of a cuisine, including ingredients used and cooking style used. For instance, shaved ice is a popular dessert in hot and humid parts of the world, whereas hot soups are more popular in the colder regions of the world.
- Economic Status: This is the second most important factor that determines the cooking styles of different cuisines. Underdeveloped regions of the world, with poor economic status, use very simple cooking techniques with minimal ingredients and stress a lot on preserving foods, while the developed regions of the world are known for elaborate cooking techniques and use of several exquisite ingredients. A classic example would be the difference between Sudanese cooking style and French cuisine.
- Level of Modernization: This determines the speed of cooking and types of cooking techniques used by different cuisines. For instance, microwave cooking would be unheard of in the remote Afghan villages, where people still believe in cooking food over wood burning ovens.
Other factors like religious restrictions, moral restrictions, accessibility to imported ingredients, etc. also affect the characteristics of a particular cuisine.
Classification of Cuisines
Cuisine types are usually classified on the basis of the regions, religious groups, ethnicity, or interest groups that they belong to. Examples of each classification are given below:
- Regional: Chinese, Indian, Mexican, and Spanish.
- Religious: Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and Jain.
- Ethnicity: African-American, Arab, Berber, and Native American.
- Interest: Gourmet, traditional, and fusion cooking styles.
- Fusion: Tex-Mex foods and American-Chinese.
Influences of the Cuisine On A Dish
The cuisine in which a dish is prepared dictates ts attributes. This is because, the ingredients used, the treatment given to these ingredients, the cooking style used, the preferred flavors, cooking techniques, and at times even the cookware and fuel used for cooking are all influenced by the cuisine style. A perfect example of this is the Lebanese dish Baba Ghanouj. This dish is prepared in Greece as Melitzano Salata, and Baigan ka bharta in India. The recipe is almost the same, but the Lebanese variety uses Tahini sauce. The Indian version is made with typical spices like red chili powder, turmeric, etc., and the Greeks add an extra dose of olive oil to it. Also, the way it is served differs between the cuisines; for instance, in India it is served as a main course, in Greece as a salad, in Levant as an appetizer, while in Romania as a bread spread
International Cuisine by Jeremy MacVeigh