The food we eat forms the basis of our food lore. What we believe about our food – how to grow it, prepare it and serve it – all go into food lore. Around the world, customs and traditions have been built upon food which is, undoubtedly, one of the most important elements of our survival.
Holidays and other gatherings that note rites of passage or seasonal changes always include communal eating in some fashion or other. No matter what region of the world you are in, you will find there are many ways to spice up your food.
One of the more common spices is pepper.
Contrary to belief, pepper isn’t just found in the tiny little grains that are put on top of salads. Pepper comes from a flowered plant that is dried and made into a seasoning. It is generally found in India or in any tropical region since that is where the plant flourishes. Ground into powder it has been used as medicine and is actually the world's most traded spice!
Referred to as “black gold” because of its importance and how highly sought after it was, it was often the specific treasure explorers sought. This "king of spices" was so valuable that in ancient Greece and Rome it was used as currency and even as recently as 19th century Massachusetts; it was the source of wealth for some of America’s first millionaires.
Spices in general enhance the flavor of foods. Here are some common spices:
· Anise: a very sweet spice, often described as a licorice-like taste. Hippocrates suggested using anise to control coughing and King Edward IV slept on linen perfumed with anise.
· Caraway: the oldest known spice that was even sometimes used as medicine. It is called "Roman cumin" in the Far East. King Richard II's master chefs combined caraway with coriander, garlic and pepper in their recipe records, Form of Cury.
· Cinnamon: This Indian native spice is definitely a kitchen staple. It was so highly prized among ancient nations that it was regarded as a gift fit for monarchs. Arab traders brought it to Alexandria, Egypt, where it was sold to Venentian trades.
· Paprika: made from dried red chile peppers. Christopher Columbus is credited with bringing it to Europe. By the 16th century, it had reached the Balkans and then soon migrated to Hungary.
What’s your favorite spice? Let us know!