France and spices in history

We could almost link the History of French Gastronomy, with its spices, to a real recipe book, just like a magnificent History book.

Indeed, spices have been inscribed since High Antiquity. They are named, during this period "aromatic", from the Greek. Traveling the roads of the Middle East between Assyrians and Babylonians, present in food, medicine or even incense and perfumes; comparable to gold and precious stones, spices arouse many desires and thus open the doors to a very profitable trade.

This trade is then reserved and ensured by the Arab and Persian merchants between Europe and Asia and the quest for spices, takes little by little, a real scale, between the 13th and 17th centuries. The fascination for the Orient and for “its rarities” thus led glorious seafarers to conquer new continents.

Names will then appear, such as Christopher Columbus, who, in 1492, discovered India and a sea route was formed in the direction of the South-West of the continent. The Malabar Coast and Ceylon, discovered by Vasco de Gama in 1498, became the main cradles of these new horizons. Marco Polo, meanwhile, reports on the different production methods in Europe.

In the 17th century, the Dutch and the English created counters on the Asian coasts and the French settled in India, with the creation, by Colbert, of the East India Company and developed the cultivation of spices in the West Indies and on the Continent. of the Indian Ocean.

Thus, Europe benefits from the market for these spices. But the imports of these rare and extremely expensive products impose difficult journeys and difficult journeys. There are then many intermediaries to help with supplies and to cross these long distances in order to arrive safely. Spices were therefore used, at that time, as currency. What is worth to us, to date, the expression “to pay in cash”, understand “in spices” because number of transactions were then settled, mainly, in measure of pepper, saffron or cinnamon.

In the 19th century, it is also worth highlighting the received idea that spices had the function of preserving food during sea voyages. This role was assigned more to salt, oil and vinegar.

But this "exotic" appeal during the Middle Ages in France favored this taste for spices and these overpriced ingredients, which had the merit of enhancing the social status of the eater and flattering the flavor of food. So we put color everywhere. Saffron mixed with nutmeg brightened the fish dishes and cameline sauce, made from red wine, cinnamon and ginger was served with meats and legumes.

The spices were also supposed to aid digestion. The meats were therefore sprinkled with a ginger broth or seasoned with cloves and pepper, beneficial, it was said, for the arteries.

Today, in France, we have continued this marriage of food and spices. Professionals or individuals, the cuisine is concocted, invented, created according to the combination of the dishes and the ingredients that accompany it.

France, whose gastronomy is recognized throughout the world, is one of the biggest consumers of spices in the world. The Compagnie Française des Poivres et des Epices wants to be the worthy representative of this culinary excellence.

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