Pleasure, taste, beauty are essential to Europeans. Therefore, European food is important. Not only the ingredients, the packages to buy at the supermarket, but also the way to set the table, the table-cloth, the plates, the porcelain, the way we cook, serve and eat. It is only against this social, aesthetical, cultural and "tasty " background that nation can assimilate the experience of other countries, other cultures, create new dishes, invent. Only in this way nation became capable of creating the gastronomy and food industry.
Much as the French may protest, many things - such as indigenous ingredients - unite southern French, Spanish and Italian cooking with each other and to the rest of the Mediterranean. Unlike the butter-based cuisine of northern France, or the goose and pork fat of the German-influenced east, southern France, like her neighbors, cooks with olive oil. These countries use wine and herbs (rosemary, thyme, basil, bay laurel, parsley, and sage) to flavor food. Tomatoes and garlic are regnant. Other distinctive flavors include saffron, mustard, anise, capers, olives, anchovies, and pine nuts. European food is savory, not sweet, and fruits are rarely used when cooking a main course. Seafood is, of course, a central part of the diet; shellfish and squid are lightly enhanced by lemon juice and olive oil, or simmered into tomato-rich stews and topped with a crusty crouton or a spoonful of pungent aioli (garlic-infused mayonnaise).
Unlike the Muslims and Jews to the east, the Christians of southern Europe eat pork. And since pork is easy to raise and produces a great proportion of meat to feed (and a pig will eat anything), it is a mainstay of the area`s cuisine. Breads are another feature of the region, and with breads come ovens, and with ovens, roasting. This distinguishes Europe from the tendency to stove-top cooking that marks much eastern Mediterranean and North African cuisine. Fowl of all kinds grace the table. The Mediterranean is a great migration spot for northern European birds heading to warmer Africa for the winter, so domesticated chicken and geese are seasonally supplemented by pheasant, grouse, partridge, and duck.
As in the Middle East, appetizers are popular and multifarious. In this region, there is a great fondness for European food that go with wine and talk: tapas in Spain, crudités in Provence, elaborate antipasti in Italy. The entire Mediterranean, and this part in particular, produces delicious soups -- just about anything can go into the pottage, from fruit and wine to tripe. Legumes are widely eaten, especially white cannelloni beans, but also peas, fava beans and string beans. All kinds of vegetables can be found in the markets, and the cook allows the fresh taste of the European food to come forth from each dish.
Worth of mentioning that Europeans eat less of the most dangerous, cholesterol-raising fats than Americans do and the amount is decreasing. European recipes often use meat as main ingredient. Both trans fat and saturated fats, which are prevalent in meat, raise blood levels of bad cholesterol. Some trans fats occur naturally in beef, lamb and dairy products. But most are created when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oil to create solid margarine or shortening.