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The Geography of Moussaka: Part of the Columbian Exchange

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This essay will talk about the origin moussaka which is a greek dish that many of the locals enjoy. I will also talk about some of the individual ingredients of moussaka and how it found its way into the county and ultimately into the dish. Lastly, I will talk about some of the relationships between moussaka and some of the topics in this class such as The Columbian exchange and cultural diffusion. Moussaka is eggplant casserole and baked meat with a thick and heavy layer of béchamel sauce that is crispy and golden that is often enjoyed in the Mediterranean, Middle East and in other parts of Europe. There are a plethora of different versions of it, some which contain other vegetables like potatoes or zucchini. No one knows of the true origins of moussaka, although it is widely believed that the Arabs introduced the dish when they brought the eggplant into the Mediterranean.

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Today it is known as a greek dish competing with dishes such as gyros and souvlaki. In Greece, it is said that no other dish in the world combines the spiced essence of minced meat, soft tasteful eggplant and the richness of the bechamel sauce. Moussaka has such a unique quality to it because it can be prepared in a number of ways. This is all dependent on what country you live in and what your families preference is to the dish. Moussaka has three main ingredients eggplant, bechamel sauce, and ground beef or lamb. The first ingredient eggplant is from the Southern and Southeastern Asia. The eggplant is a purple fruit that is part of the berry family. Eggplants are most likely to have originated in certain parts of India, where they are continuing to grow.

During the Middle Ages Arabs introduced the fruit to the Mediterranean area. The bechamel sauce which is a mixture of butter, flour, and milk is a copy of an Italian sauce called Balsamell or Besciamella. Although originally created in Italy in the Renaissance Bechamel sauce is a huge French cuisine. Today you can find sheep or lamb all over the world. Sheep were among the first animals to be domesticated by humans dating all the way back to 9,000 BC. The beginning of the breeding of sheep is believed to have begun in either southwest Asia or western Europe. Beef is the name for meat that you would find from cattle. Humans have been eating beef for centuries because of the taste and its natural high protein levels. It is belived that most cattle originated in the West containing Europe, Aisa, and Africa. Tomatoes are used in moussaka as a paste to hold the dish together. Tomatoes are part of the same family as the eggplant. The tomato originated in western South America. The Spanish encountered tomatoes during their contact with the Aztec people. This was during the Spanish colonization of the Americas and brought back to Europe where it found its way to Greece. This process was part of the Columbian exchange.

The Columbian exchange was responsible for the widespread transfer of animals, plants, culture, people and diseases across the Atlantic ocean. It connected Europe with the Americas which allowed ingredients to be available to many more people. Which allowed dishes like moussaka to be created. Moussaka also includes other ingredients such as oregano, bay leaf, olives, parsley, and cinnamon. These different spices are important to the dish because they are all native to the Mediterranean area. These spices give this dish its own Mediterranean flavors. The meaning of cultural diffusion is the process of spreading and adopting a cultural element from its place of origin across a wider. I explain what the definition of cultural diffusion is because moussaka embodies the definition so well. Greece, as you might be able to tell, has been around for a while. Greece was one of Europe’s first advanced civilizations dating all the way back to 508 BCE. You would think that since Greece is one of the oldest civilizations it would have a huge influence on the world spreading its culture throughout the the new rising civilizations. This is the case in many ways a lot of the world is influenced by them but a dish such as moussaka is still able to become a very popular dish in Greece. A dish that has many foreign ingredients coming from far away places such as Aisa and Meso-America. When you get the opportunity and the time to really observe and anyzlye something like a unique meal you get a certain kind of appreciation for how interesting it can really be. When you eat food you never really think of all the different small ingredients and where they came. The idea that the food you are eating is all because of some adventurer or merchant that decided to travel to unknown places. What happened years ago actually forge the present foods people eat today is something you wouldn’t really think of without having a reason.

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