Since ancient times, spices have been used in sacred rituals, to improve social rank, and to add complex flavors to dishes of all kinds. In ancient Egypt, cinnamon fetched a high price because it was essential for embalming. And Romans were known as “the most extravagant users of aromatics in history”, using spices in foods, wines and fragrances. The richest slept on pillows of saffron in the belief that it would cure hangovers.
For centuries, spices were brought via camel along Asian and Indian trade routes, and the spice trade was monopolized by the Arabs, when spices were as valuable as gold. Spices could change hands a dozen times between their source and Europe, soaring in value with each transaction. The Arabs were the best of middlemen, doing everything possible to confuse consumers about the spices' origins.
Today, spices are still valuable and their use can be as equally mysterious to many chefs, new and old. From ras el hanout to herbes de provence, incorporating flavors into your own kitchen lends authenticity for global recipes and provides creative inspiration for to every day dishes. Get cooking!