Photo: Mike Gabelmann (flickr)
Have you ever wondered why some cuisines, like Indian and Thai, are so spicy and others, like English, are so bland? India and Thailand are very hot countries, while England is cold and damp. Perhaps the answer has something to do with the climate associated with each cuisine?
One explanation that supports this theory is that spices mask spoilage, and in a country with a hot climate and without refrigeration, that can come in handy. The second explanation has to do with bacteria; some scientists suggest that the spices in hot cuisines help protect humans from certain kinds of bacteria found in food. In fact, the hotter the country, the more likely it is that its recipes will use the kind of spices that slow down the growth of bacteria.
That’s right. For example, onion, garlic, oregano and allspice alone all kill or inhibit up to twenty-nine different kinds food-borne bacteria. In fact, most spices inhibit bacteria to some extent. And if you think about it, this makes sense. As plants evolved, they had to learn to fight off parasites and bacteria in order to survive. That’s how they got their distinctive flavoring in the first place.