Though lesser known than that of some of its European neighbors, Spain's native cuisine is simple, rich, and diverse, and wholly focused on bright bold flavors and fresh local ingredients.
The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans and Moors have all occupied Spain at different times in history, and modern Spanish cuisine is heavily influenced by all of these cultures.
Because of Spain's extensive coastline, fresh fish, squid and shellfish are a large part of the Spanish diet. Spain's fertile grasslands are perfect for vegetable farming, and its arid, warm climate is ideal for growing grapes and olives.
Spanish meals generally include lean meats like poultry, rabbit and game, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Dishes are accented with bold flavors like olives, cumin, garlic, cayenne, saffron and sweet and hot chilis.
Spain is famous for its cured ham, its distinctive appetizers, called "tapas" and its rice and seafood stew, called paella. It is also the world's leading producer of olive oil.
Each region of Spain has its own distinctive cuisine, from the meat and fish pies of Galicia, to the famed fabada bean dish of Asturias, to the fresh gazpachos of Andalusia.
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