Spanish cuisine is very diverse in terms of food preparation and it is enriched by the elements from regional cuisines. Beginning with the dishes that originate from folk tradition and ending with the specialties from the Mediterranean areas, the culinary diversity is a result of combining many geography and climate factors. The most visible factor is the influence of different peoples and tribes that invaded Spain in the past. There are also influences from Latin America, which undoubtedly contributed to the development of many different techniques of cooking and introducing new foods.
For many centuries Spanish culinary heritage was not known around Europe. It gained its national identity based on dish diversity at the turn of 19th and 20th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to writers specialising in cookery writing, Spanish cuisine was popularised and research was carried out on the history and origins of many traditional dishes. This group of writers used to be referred to as " gastronomic generation 27". Since then, Spanish cuisine has been constantly changing and at present it is called the new Spanish cuisine.
Because of such a diversity in the concept of cuisine, some authors, who want to emphasise the uniqueness of Spanish gastronomy, use plural form and spaek of "Spanish cuisines". This lack of uniformity is a good reflection of the coexistence of two realities in Spanish cuisine. The first one is a classic folk cuisine based on the tradition of the specific region and the other one is a modern cuisine which adopts the latest techniques of cooking and is based on the original ideas of chefs of international renown.
There is not much information about the culinary culture of the Iberian Peninsula before the Roman times. Most probably animal fats were used in that period as the use of plant oils was not known yet. Invader tribes were mainly concerned with extracting precious minerals in the Mediterranean areas leaving limited space for land cultivation. In the first centuries AD one of the most popular dishes appreciated by ancient Greeks and Romans was garum- a fermented fish sauce.
A valuable component of the lower classes diet was peas. It was cooked differently than now, as puree called puls. Also mushrooms, still widely appreciated today, were extremely popular in that period. Romans also knew viniculture, although it appears that the extension of the vine along the Mediterranean should be attributed to the Greeks who were famous for winemaking throughout the empire.