Tunisian cuisine can easily be seen to have distinct influences from many of the surrounding cultures. Heavily influenced by Mediterranean cultures, many of the dishes heavily incorporate foods such as tomatoes, olive oil, and fresh bread. This is not to say that these are the cornerstones of Tunisian cuisine. By far, the undisputed foundation of Tunisian cuisine is couscous. Dating back two to three thousand years to the Tunisian ancestors, the Berbers, couscous is dish made from coarsely ground semolina pasta. Usually, this is combined with a variety of meats and vegetables as well, including lamb and poultry. Also, it is not uncommon for Tunisian couscous to be combined with a variety of sauces, usually a sauce known as Harissa, a traditional spicy red pepper sauce made from a combination of tomatoes, olive oil, peppers, and spices. In fact, use of Harissa is so commonplace that many Tunisians will eat it alongside a serving of bread and olive oil, or even on a sandwich in place of mayonnaise.
Spices and peppers tend to play a very central role in overall cuisine. In this respect, Tunisian food is much like other North African cuisines; it is quite spicy and hot. Hot peppers play a key role in tying a meal together; a bland meal is considered by most Tunisians to be a bad one. Also, most dishes are heavily spiced with a variety of seasonings such as bay leaves, cumin, caraway, saffron, cumin, cinnamon, and mint. In the eyes of Tunisians, usage of seasonings in meals adds to its flavor and overall quality.
Tunisian meals are typically family style meals, usually lasting very long periods of time with numerous amounts of guests. Dinner usually proceeds with generous servings of appetizers including various soups, vegetables and salads. The main entree is usually a dish consisting of couscous, a variety of meats, and an assortment of vegetables. To complete the meal, Tunisians will usually enjoy coffee, tea, fruits, and pastries.