Our daily food has changed out of all recognition since I was a girl. My Mother was a plain cook, and the only seasoning I remember in our house was salt and pepper and packets of Paxo (other stuffing are available!). Maybe a clove or some nutmeg at Christmas. I recall that one of the few positive things she ever said about my cooking was to praise me for making my own stuffing.
Now spices are a part of every day cooking in most households and are readily available on the high street and online, where the range is of cause literally global. The most expensive spice is Saffron, known as Red Gold, so that should give you a clue. A lb of Saffron, if you should require that much would cost a mere £4000.00. No I haven’t put in too many o. While the cheapest spice is chilli powder. We grew chilli plants last year, fiery red little beasties which we have only just finished using.
The definition of a spice is that it is a seed, fruit, root, or bark of a plant, while herbs are the leaves, stems, or flowers of plants. Another definition of the word spice is, ” something that makes something else more exciting and interesting”. I love words, the way you can squeeze two meanings out of one. Cinnamon was one of the earliest spices to be used, the Egyptians used it as an embalming agent!
Black pepper is the most used spice. Now I like a sprinkle of black pepper on my chips, but the use of white pepper has been a revelation to me. I knew about its use in white sauces, the colour blends in, but had never thought about its taste. We use white pepper and nutmeg to season our mashed potato, making something special of an every day dish I’ve eaten all my life, giving them a lift, a spicy warmth.
Spices have an ancient connection with us having been used for many different purposes. Magically in rituals as incense, for their healing properties, in tradition. And always and forever in the art of the preservation of food, its taste and flavouring.