A SPICY AFFAIR

Potato wafers with a dash of red paprika make the eyes water and activate the taste buds like none other. Despite the steady stream of water from the eyes and nostrils, one cannot leave a half-eaten bag till a later time.

Ever had spiced tea? If you are a tea-person, you may enjoy this variant. Even if you are not a tea-lover, you would still enjoy this beverage. Of course, you could have a pick of your choice of spices!

As a child, I only knew the plain honey as ‘honey’. But today, cinnamon honey is my favourite on a slice of bread toast.

Wo dal hi kya jisme tadka na laga ho! (What taste would lentils/pulses have, if not seasoned!) Well, our Indian readers would sure understand what I mean. Without seasonings (‘chhownk/tadka’), simply boiled pulses, though healthy, are considered to be patients’ food in most Indian homes. As for that matter, Indian meals are not considered Indian without spices.

Spices form an integral addition in most cuisines all over the world. Of course, the type of spices that are used varies from place to place.

Spices are not added to food in huge quantities. Yet, they make their magic well-evident. Spices perform the tri-fold culinary functions of adding flavour and colour to food and preserving them. No, they don’t lead to gain in weight. However, excess addition of spices to food causes discomfort to the body – it may lead to indigestion and an increase in the quantity of certain minerals (more than the RDA of intake). Many spices have anti-microbial properties.

One thing to note here, is that spices are different from herbs. Herbs are usually leaves, flowers or stems of plants used for seasoning or garnishing. For example, coriander/cilantro leaves are herbs. But, dried coriander seeds when ground and powdered serve as spices.

Spices in Literature and History
I had this short story titled, ‘Love across the salt desert’ by K.N. Daruwala in my tenth grade English text. What I strikingly remember till today is that the protagonist remembers his lover as ‘she who smelt of cloves and cinnamon’ among other descriptions.

Not only in this fiction story, years before in one of the biblical poems in Song of Solomon, the narrator compares his lover to many forms of spices.

“Spikenard and saffron,
Calamus and cinnamon,
With all trees of frankincense,
Myrrh and aloes,
With all the chief spices—”

Spices in use for mummification
Ancient Egyptians had the practice of preserving dead bodies. They used lots of fragrant spices to embalm the bodies. This was a practice of the Jews as well. 

Spices for weight loss

Well, well, there is no substitute to a daily regimen of physical exercise to keep one’s body and mind fit and healthy. However, spices are known to contribute to this area as well. The famous ones here are fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, powdered cinnamon and fennel seeds. They work wonders if used for a long term.

Spices for beauty

Turmeric is the king in this field. Face packs made of turmeric and other ingredients are the bestsellers of all times – especially for the tropical skin type. One caution for those who want to try this (of course, I’m not putting in here the recipe of the packs) – don’t venture out into the sun after applying a face pack containing turmeric. It darkens the skin.

So, here we go – not only in food, but also in other aspects, spices are indispensable!