Lebanon has been ruled by foreign powers that have influenced the types of food the Lebanese ate. From 1516 to 1918, the Ottoman Turks controlled Lebanon and introduced a variety of foods that have become staple, including olive oil, fresh bread, baklava (a sweet pastry dessert), laban (homemade yogurt), stuffed vegetables, and a variety of nuts. The Ottomans also increased the popularity of lamb. After the Ottomans were defeated in World War 11, France took control until 1946, when the country won its independence.
Lebanese food includes an abundance of starches, whole grain, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood; animal fats are consumed sparingly. Poultry is eaten more often than red meat. When red meat is eaten it is usually lamb on the coast, and goat meat in the mountain regions. It also includes copious amounts of garlic and olive oil, often seasoned by lemon juice, olive oil, herbs, garlic and lemon are typical flavors found in the Lebanese diet.
Lebanon is a country that both Muslims and Christians call home and most of the country's most important celebrations and related food is focused on religion. Most often foods are either grilled, baked or sautéed in olive oil; butter or cream is rarely used other than in a few desserts. Vegetables are often eaten raw or pickled as well as cooked. Herbs and spices are used and the freshness of ingredients is important. Like most Mediterranean countries, much of what the Lebanese eat is dictated by the seasons.
Many traditional Lebanese meals are simple preparations. Often the same ingredients are used over and over, in different ways, in each dish. Yoghurt, cheese, cucumber, aubergines, chick peas, nuts, tomatoes, burghul and sesame (seeds, paste and oil) are common ingredients. Parsley and mint are used in vast quantities as are lemons, onions and garlic.
Most people you meet in Lebanon will offer you coffee as most meetings and occasions begin with a cup. Coffee comes in numerous styles, with Turkish coffee and the local "Arabic" coffee being perhaps the most popular. Tea is also popular among the locals. Alcohol is legal in Lebanon, however the majority of the country is Muslim and many don't drink alcohol.