Mediterranean cuisine is the food from the lands around the Mediterranean Sea and its preparation. This geographical area broadly follows the distribution of the olive tree, which provides one of the most distinctive features of the region's cooking, olive oil. The region's food came to be seen as a more or less unified cuisine following the cookery writer Elizabeth David's book, A Book of Mediterranean Food (1950).
Other writers, such as the Tunisian historian Mohamed Yassine Essid, have agreed with David, defining the three core elements of the cuisine as the olive, wheat, and the grape, yielding oil, bread and pasta, and wine, respectively. The region spans a wide variety of cultures with distinct cuisines, in particular (going anticlockwise around the region) the Maghrebi, Levantine, Greek, Italian, Provençal (French), and Spanish.
However, the historical connections of the region, as well as the impact of the Mediterranean Sea on the region's climate and economy, mean that these cuisines share dishes beyond the core trio of oil, bread, and wine, such as roast lamb or mutton, meat stews with vegetables and tomato (for example, Spanish andrajos and Italian ciambotta), and the salted cured fish roe, bottarga, found across the region.
The cooking of the area is not to be confused with the Mediterranean diet, made popular because of the apparent health benefits of a diet rich in olive oil, wheat and other grains, fruits, vegetables, and a certain amount of seafood, but low in meat and dairy products. Mediterranean cuisine encompasses the ways that these and other ingredients, including meat, are dealt with in the kitchen, whether they are health-giving or not.