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02/12/2018

Michael Krondl – „The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice” – 3


Venetians not only tried to dress like the Byzantines, they aped their eating habits, too. Not that every Eastern culinary innovation was immediately embraced. The imported fork, for example, was initially demonized as “an instrument of the devil.” When the doge’s son Giovanni Orseolo returned from Constantinople around 1004 with his Byzantine bride, Maria, she immediately elicited gossip not least because of the highly suspect implements in her trousseau. “She did not touch food with her hands,” wrote a scandalized reporter years after the event, “but the food was cut up into small pieces by her servants and she would pick up these tidbits, tasting them using a golden fork with two tines.”

The city at the gates of the Bosporus had always been a magnet for people from across eastern Europe and western Asia. A Western Crusader described Constantinople’s melting pot in 1096: “Greeks, Bulgarians…Italians, Venetians, Romanians [the contemporary term for mainland Greece], Dacians [from today’s Romania], English, Amalfitans, even Turks; many heathen peoples, Jews and proselytes, Cretans, Arabs and people of all nations come together here.” Not surprisingly, the local culture was inflected by all these foreign accents and the city’s cuisine seasoned by flavors from across the empire.

01/11/2018

Michael Krondl – „The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice” – 1

Filed under: FRAGMENTE DIN CARTI SI BLOGURI — afractalus @ 11:52
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   „For an upper-caste Brahmin to eat food that is forbidden or inappropriately prepared is to disrupt the order of the universe”.

„When Saint Benedict set up his monastic communities in the early sixth century, he specified just what his monks could eat and when. (It wasn’t much and it wasn’t too often.) Every Catholic had to conform to the religious calendar, but within that generalized scheme, each social stratum had different rules. The Italian preacher Savonarola, best known for castigating Renaissance Florentines for their ungodly ways, also had opinions on the appropriate dining habits of various castes. “Hare is not a meat for Lords,” he writes. “Fava beans are a food for peasants.” Beef was apparently okay for artisans with robust stomachs but could be consumed by lords and ladies only if corrected with appropriate condiments”.
„The idea that you might reach paradise by traveling east has a certain logic to it, given the times. We are so accustomed to thinking of European civilization as the vanguard of the world that we forget that for much of human history, the European peninsula was at the receiving end of the miracles of the East. Over the millennia, innovations such as Mesopotamian agriculture, the Phoenician alphabet, Greek philosophy, and Arab bookkeeping all flowed from east to west. Both Christianity and Islam followed the same route. So did wheat, olives, sugar, and spices. The historian Norman Pounds has depicted this flow of technological and cultural innovation from the Middle East as a “cultural gradient” that was tilted down toward Europe throughout the greater part of human history”.
„The pepper grown in the hills of India’s Malabar Coast could change hands a dozen times before reaching the shops run by the pepperers guild in Mandeville’s England. And each time the pepper changed hands, passed a customs checkpoint, or was subject to taxes, its price shot up. According to one study of the fifteenth-century trade, the Indian grower might be paid one to two grams of silver for a kilo of pepper; when it reached Egypt’s main port of Alexandria, the price had shot up to ten to fourteen grams; the traders at Venice’s spice market on the Rialto were charging fourteen to eighteen; and by the time it was offered to London’s gentry, the price had increased to some twenty to thirty grams of silver”.
„And once the Portuguese, and later the Dutch, entered the Asiatic trade, their profits could be even more spectacular. In the sixteenth century, the Portuguese could earn net profits of 150 percent or more from the pepper they bought in South India and sold in Lisbon. Nutmeg could fetch a hundred times in Europe what it cost in Malabar. The margin was even greater when it was purchased at its source in the Spice Islands of today’s Indonesia”.

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