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Yesterday I felt like experimenting again. Since I like noodles and she adores them as well, I knew nothing could go wrong, even if I mix things that don’t traditionally belong together. She liked the sweetness, spiciness, crispy veggies, originality and overall colour. She did recognize the taste though. And that was somehow confusing, but interesting on the other hand. There was a subtle mixture of chilli peppers and chilli paste, soy sauce and ketjap manis, and peanut butter. Carrots and broccoli complemented the colours. The “mysterious taste” actually triggered me to think what spices are really hiding behind them, where do they come from, and how are they associated to our daily lives.
Origin of spices
I would recommend reading my previous general blog about spices. Look at the photo below. Since I live in Finland, most of the spices are bought in local stores and the names are in Finnish and Swedish. Is today a good day for some foreign language lessons?
- Top shelf (from the left): nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, paprika, ginger and cinnamon
- Bottom shelf (from the left): cardamom, nutmeg, Thai yellow curry, cayenne pepper, Thai green curry, Peruvian pepper
- Front (from left): oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, rosemary.
Do you know what these spices have in common? Let’s first group them.
Nowadays it’s so easy to get spices. Just go to local grocery and get anything you wish and also try something you never tried before, experiment and discover a new taste. In the past wars were fought over spices; the most notable being the Dutch-Portuguese war, that started at the beginning of 17th century.
Another interesting fact is that in 1592, during the eighty years war between Spain and England, English fleet confiscated a Portuguese ship loaded with 900 tons of merchandise from India and China, worth about half a million pounds (nearly half the size of English Treasury at the time).
Today I will focus only on 5 herbs: basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Mentioning basil, my first association is Basil Fawlty. Basil, played by John Cleese, is the main character in British comedy series Fawlty Towers. He runs a small hotel and getting into all kinds of troubles with his guests and personnel, especially young Spanish servant Manuel. Funnily, when series was exported to Spain, Manuel suddenly became Italian, named Paolo.
One thing that all five spices (herbs) have in common is that botanically they belong to Mint family. Some other prominent members of this family are: peppermint, spearmint, bergamot and sage.
Marjoram originates from Latin word amaracum. Marjoram was believed to be an aphrodisiac in Roman literature, because of the similarity of amaracum to Latin amor “love.”
Origin of the word oregano is not totally clear. Oregano prefers higher altitudes in Mediterranean climate. Some Scandinavian names also contain similar elements: Icelandic bergminta “mountain mint” and Finnish mäkimeirami “hill marjoram.”
Do you know anything about Simon and Garfunkel? What about Scarborough Fair, traditional English ballad? Rosemary and Thyme are most known for being a part of the refrain:
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Remember me to one, who lives there,
For once she was a true love of mine.
There are many explanations, but I like the following one most: Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme refer to the pagan belief that together these four herbs can be a love charm.