August 6, 2010

Spice of the land

Filed under: food — podtourz @ 2:36 pm

Funny how different countries have different spices.

Sometimes it’s obvious why. Italy does basil like no other country – because it grows so well. Pesto is the quintessential Italian taste, for me.

But sometimes it seems less easy to explain a local herb or spice preference. Why does Oman love cardamom so much? Yes, Oman had links with southern India where it grew – but why does Oman not like coriander and cumin nearly so much?

In Morocco, ginger and cumin are the big flavours; a completely different balance. (Of course, I shouldn’t omit the eye-wateringly hot harissa.)

German friends of mine say Germany is divided by the weisswurst equator – south of it, white sausage, and above it, none. The whole of Europe actually has a spice equator – in the north, caraway and dill – in the south, thyme and oregano. Rye bread isn’t the same without caraway. (My grandfather always used to give me a glass of kummel when I visited, and a bottle of the liqueur at Christmas – a delight, as long as you have a taste for it, and so much nicer I always think than the aniseed-based alcohols of the south. Though I have managed to get a bit of a taste for ouzo, I still drink it very much more diluted than most Greeks would consider proper.)

And then of course there is England; the land without spice. It wasn’t always that way; I’ve been looking at a book on medieval cooking, and many of the recipes contain a list of spices that looks very similar to the masala lists in modern Indian dishes. I wonder when we got so bland? Maybe chicken tikka masala becoming the national dish is not so much testament to our multiculturalism as England regaining its historic taste for spice!


1 Comment »

  1. There is a Cardamom chewing gum in Oman!
    Oman also likes Ginger and Saffron in Tea – Cardamom has competition.

    Comment by Oman — August 6, 2010 @ 5:42 pm

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