BLOGS - The Spice Chronicles

The Spice Chronicles


As a part of teaching Indian cooking, spices figure prominently but a lot of times the history is lacking. So in some of our class presentations we searched the web and have tried to fill in the gaps as much as possible. One of our friends (Daniel W) gifted us one of Rosengarten's books, "The Book of Spices". Rosengarten was a World War II US Army lieutenant (from Philadelphia) who lived in Guatemala (after his service) and became a spice grower/trader. His book is my source for the "Spice Chronicles". I have to try to show how India has been linked to the spice trade for centuries. Again as one reads this book one realizes that India is not the only player and that Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas all have their bit. As I read more from this fascinating book I will be sending my frequent reports to all of you.

Biblical Times

There is a fragrant resin from a tree that oozes out and resembles a pearl, which was carried by Egyptian women as perfume in their purse. Genesis 2:12 calls this resin Bdellium and the tree "Commiphora Mukul" grow in the arid regions of Western India. Now in modern times I am not sure what Indian spice comes close to this. I know asafetida is a resin but it has a pungent order, whether Biblical folks found this smell a turn-on is anybody's guess.

1000 BC (The cost of "gasoline")

The Arab traders at first used primitive donkey caravans to transport the spices from the East (India included) to the West. Then came a major revolution when the camel was first used instead of the donkey. This long-suffering patient beast, plodding along at 2 miles a hour and carrying burdens of up to 500 pounds, could cover 25 miles a day, with little water and food.

Ancient Corporate secrets, Intellectual property and Deceit.

Because of their geographical location the Arabs were natural middlemen of the lucrative spice trade (East West flow).To preserve their secrets they would hide the real origins of their spices and lead their importers in all the wrong directions. Lies would include tales of horror and directing people to Africa instead of India. It was not until the 1st century A.D. that the Roman scholar Pliny pointed out that the Arab fabrications was a way to keep the prices high.

1 2 3 4 5 6 >>