Spice Culture of India

“Every artist needs inspiration,
Every musician needs music,
And every Indian needs masala aka spices.”

The Epic

Can you imagine a kitchen without Masala Dabba? If you can, then you are not an Indian. India is a country of diverse cultures and people. Still, it is not possible to think of an Indian kitchen and cuisine without masala aka spices. It is an essential part of our kitchen and is considered a golden box in our homes.

Why Indian food is very different from other food around the world?

spicy Indian food: spice culture
Spicy Indian food

Most of the communities in India shares certain traditions and traditions are closely related to spices.
Indian food is one of the popular cuisines around the world.
Because of its vibrant spices, fresh herbs and a wide variety of rich flavours, Indian food is special. Indian dishes are known for their authentic recipes which give a unique taste.

Spices that go into preparing Indian recipes have many health benefits that also make them essential.

We Indians prepare the spice that goes into our food which is way better than the readymade spice mixture available in the western markets.

Spices are just ‘toxins’.

Source: Getty Images

Yes, Spices are nothing but toxins. You thought it was a joke! No, it’s not a joke.
These spices are defences of plants, the chemical defence to protect themselves from many predators. Plants accumulate poisons on their bodies or fruits to deter predators or herbivores from eating them.

And weirdly, these poisons are our spices. Advance animals like humans, these poisons are not harmful because we have a higher tolerance than the smaller organisms that these chemicals target.

They are still toxins. So why do we enjoy eating them?

Because spices can kill bacteria, growing on our food to prolong the period of consumption.
It also helps in masking a foul flavour the meat had acquired due to rot.
Nowadays it is used to season the food which makes them tasty and healthy.
It made spices extremely valuable.

Spices: Silver and gold of Middle Ages

black pepper spice of India
Black pepper

Would you believe if I say, there was a time when the value of spices was equal to human life?
Yes, I’m serious. There was a time when a handful of black pepper was equal to the life of a person. Like 2000 years ago, black pepper was known as ‘black gold.
Spices were a sign of luxury in European countries. They were extremely expensive.

If you ever wondered why India was called ‘Sone ki Chidiyaan’ or ‘Golden Bird’?

The answer is because of spices. The black pepper found in India was very rare and famous all around the world. So, lots of merchants came to India from all around the world for trading.

Not only had they found black pepper but find long pepper, ginger, turmeric and different varieties of cardamom.

The Heart of spice trade

spice trade in Goa market during colonisation
Goa, India, market scene 16th century. During the Portuguese colonisation.

When the world was suffering from eating bland or tasteless foods, East Indies(India) were enjoying spices as long as the people lived there.
Spices were luxury goods for the Europeans, that showed their status in society. They were expensive which was becoming a problem for them.

Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese explorer set out for world exploration in July 1497 actually to find the origin of the spice trade. They aimed to cut down the cost of expenses.

He then discovered the sea route from Europe to India, sailing around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope. They finally reached the heart of the spice trade at Calicut on the Malabar Coast, India on May 20, 1498.

From the early 2000 years to present India is still known for its spices, also known as the spice pole of the world.

Be it Arabs traders or Roman Empire, India ruled them all in the spice trade.
Later, India also brought spices from different countries and started cultivating them and Indian markets flooded with varieties of spices. No spices in the world left that were not available in these local markets of India.

Onset of Colonization

Spice trade during the ‘Age of Exploration’ may have triggered the onset of colonization.
After all, Columbus was trying to find a new route to the East Indies to access the spice trade when he accidentally stumbled upon America. The colonization of America, destruction of the indigenous population and even the Atlantic slave trade were all aftermath of the search for spices.

Indian mutiny
Source: Getty Images
Indian mutiny

The spice trade came during the late 1600s when colonization started as a way to control the spice trade.
The Britishers first came to India as traders. The British East India Company landed on August 24, 1608 A.D, in India at the port of Surat.

The onset of colonization was a way to dominate and control the movement of spices- an essential commodity in Europe that has become an important ingredient in cuisine.

Enough about this history, let’s talk about the present times, the 21st century.

The Masala Mantra

Different spices are cultivated in different regions of India. But Kerala is known as the spice capital of India. In the city of spices Kozhikode, namely Black pepper, Clove, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Star Annise, Ginger, Turmeric, Cambodge, Tamarind, spices are grown here. Munnar is a spice centre in Kerala where spices are being cultivated for thousands of years. Today in Munnar, there are more than 100 spice Gardens. The magic of Indian spices from these special gardens.

masala mantra
Source: Getty Images

Indian cooking is all about flavours and, it should ideally be a great balance between the heat and seasoning.
When people try Indian cooking, they are intimidated by the number of ingredients and think it is very time-consuming.

People find Indian food is difficult to cook because they aren’t familiar with many spices that are available to them.
There’s always a misunderstanding about Indian food around the world, that is they think ‘Curry’ is an Indian dish.
Curry is not even an Indian word. There is no such word as curry in our official languages of India.

The curry word was invented by the British mistaking it for some Indian words like ‘Kari’ or ‘Kadhi’ sauce like the gravy in South India.
The curry powder is introduced by the British to the world is not an authentic Indian spice.

You won’t find curry if you order curry in any Indian restaurant. So, don’t be sad and learn the names of Indian dishes before you visit India. We will be happy to serve you.
The love in Indian food is as much as love between Indians. We Indians can’t imagine food without spices. It will be a life just like Chai without adrak, so dull.

So, let us end our spicy story with a masala chai.
Do comment if you liked our masala story and share your funny to emotional masala story with us.

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