Pan y Vino Salud! is a website designed to promote restaurants located in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States that specialize in Mediterranean, Latin American, and Caribbean cuisines. This region, as defined here, comprises states that contribute to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and which includes Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Alhough part of the basin, New York State is not included.
Furthermore, the website showcases the Mid-Atlantic as a region with an abundance of choices for dining out and enjoying healthy and flavorful food. The options are plentiful—from the casual to the sophisticated—but they all have a common heritage.
The Mediterranean region is at the heart of this shared heritage as many restaurateurs are either descendants of immigrants from Mediterranean countries or are of Latin-American descent and who also have an intimate knowledge of Greek, Italian, Spanish and Latin American food because of having worked for or currently owning these types of establishments.
The influence of the eastern Mediterranean's three-thousand-year-old Levantine cuisine spread throughout Asia Minor and the coastal Mediterranean during the times of Alexander the Great and the Roman and Ottoman Empires that followed. Many centuries later, Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores brought this culinary influence to the Americas and, eventually, to us today.
An example of this transoceanic journey is the lentil, an ancient legume, that originated in the Paleolithic period (10,000 B.C.). Today, lentil soup is still a favorite dish in Southern Europe and the Middle East, and it is also quite popular in Latin America. Yet, on both sides of the Atlantic it is prepared in ways that would have been recognizable to the ancient peoples who lived in the lands of its earliest cultivation over 6,000 years ago: Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Lebanon, Ethiopa, Jordan and Iraq.
A reverse example, i.e., from the opposite side of the Atlantic, is a humble root vegetable that, following the 1492 accidental discovery of a new continent, was transported in Spanish galleons from South America eastward to the Iberian Peninsula. Today's ubiquitous potato, originally cultivated hundreds of years ago by the Incas in the cooler climates of the Andean valleys and terraces of their Empire or Tahuantinsuyo, is universally consumed. It was the Spanish conquest of the Incas that brought the potato to Southern Europe where it was initially received with reluctance. But upon its gradual acceptance the tuber spread, and over the centuries it would come to improve the nutritional status and the economies of many European countries and be enjoyed in many ways including baked, in soups and salads and, more recently, as a fast-food known thr world over as french fries!
Undoubtedly, the environment played a critical role in the evolution, proliferation and viability of edible plants. The Mediterranean coastal region's moderate climate during most of the year, Asia Minor's range of cooler weather at higher elevations, and the fertile soil and varying altitude of the Americas provided a diverse topography and climate that contributed to the emergence of a diverse vegetation. Their serendipitous, trial-by-error discovery and cultivation as staple foods enriched the human diet and contributed to the more sedentary lifestyle that farming requires as well as to greater population growth.
Moreover, the application of seeds, flowers, bark, or leaves, collectively known as spices, for the purpose of enhancing the flavor of prepared foods had the unintended consequence of preserving them, since these spices also contained powerful antibiotic properties, unknown at the time, that delayed spoilage. The added utilitarian value further their widespread use.
In many ways, the Mediterranean and Latin American cuisines of today reflect, not only the history and cultural values of those by whose hands meals were first prepared, but also, the accumulated wisdom of farming, harvesting, storing and cooking that made possible the wide range of culinary experiences that we enjoy today.
This guide aims to represent hundreds of restaurants in the Mid-Atlantic region that, together, provide potential consumers with a unique cross-section of the diversity of gastronomic styles that originated on both sides of the Atlantic. Moreover, we hope it will be both a tribute and a token of appreciation by foodies everywhere to the armies of people who invest themselves daily in practicing the culinary arts and in bringing the pleasure of well-prepared, healthful meals to patrons. To that end, the guide is dedicated to the chefs, kitchen help and wait staff as well as to all who value and seek out the simple, but immensely satisfying pleasure of good eating. . . the loyal customers!