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All About Spices

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This presentation outlines the historical, influences that came to shape our modern idea of cuisine along with the science that is helping us to understand how our sense of taste works.

This presentation outlines the historical, influences that came to shape our modern idea of cuisine along with the science that is helping us to understand how our sense of taste works.


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  • 1. Presented by Kathy FitzHenry Founder Juliet Mae Fine Spices All About Spices The History and Science Behind Our Sense of Taste
  • 2. “ Whoever controls the spice controls the universe.”
    • Throughout history, the most powerful country of its time has dominated world (spice) trade.
    • Regardless of their political aspirations each
    • power expanded its culinary culture. Often nourishing its population with the valuable food stuffs they brought from conquered lands
    Baron Harkonen
  • 3. Influences on European/American Cuisine
    • The Egyptians:
    • Their obsession with the afterlife drove their discoveries of the use of spices in mummification/perfumes and the cultivation of crops like garlic to ensure a healthy workforce for pyramid construction.
  • 4. Influences on European/American Cuisine
    • The Romans
    • Their love of luxury and sensational fests often lasting several days, informed their desired for exotic foods and expensive imported spices.
    • Emperor Nero was said to have commanded that the funeral pyre for his wife be made of cinnamon. Something would cost over several billion dollars in today’s currency.
  • 5. Influences on European/American Cuisine
    • The Spanish Empire was driven by its monarchs’ lust for power and treasure.
    • After the Unification of the Iberian Peninsula, the Spanish expanded into the first true world empire. By 1550 it had colonies in Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Americas and dominated Europe.
    • The Spanish trade routes brought gold to Spain, maize to Africa, chilies to Asia, oranges and horses to the Americas, while the Spanish nobility zealously keep chocolate a secret for many years.
  • 6. Influences on European/American Cuisine
    • Present day:
    • Through the allure of its political and economic position, the US has
    • attracted immigrants from around the world, nurturing a uniquely diverse
    • ethnic and regional groupings of cuisines. California, Cajun, Mexican, French, Caribbean, Spanish, Asian , NY Deli etc .
    • The Chinese emergence on the world stage is exemplified by its
    • growing domination of manufacturing and food exports.
    • Through inexpensive garlic imports, China has reduced the market share of California garlic growers and now dominates the US garlic market.
  • 7. What Made Spice So Valuable ?
    • In olden days…locally produced was it
    • No refrigeration
    • Meat was salted
    • Crops were harvested once a year
  • 8. Spices Were Valued Like Gold
    • Black Pepper
    • The English used it as currency during medieval times.
    • The French had a salt tax
    • The origin of word salary comes from the French word for salt, Sel.
  • 9. Before the 16 th century
    • Europeans did not have access to:
    • Tomatoes, Potatoes, Avocados
    • Corn, Beans, Squash, Peanuts
    • Vanilla and Chocolate
    • Chili
    • Very limited access to sugar
    15 th Century French Spice Merchant at Work. A Dash Of Spice. Hawkins & Duff. The European diet was based on plants like wheat; meats were rarely consumed outside of elite circles .
  • 10. Before the 16 century
    • The People of the Americas did not have access to
    • Small Domesticated Animals: sheep, cows, pigs
    • Horses
    The American diet consisted mainly of farmed plants, fish, select insects, even pond algae and opportunistic hunting. Source: http://ushistoryimages.com/sources.shtm
  • 11. 1492
    • Prior to 1492 not one food crop had crossed the Atlantic
    • Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas resulted in a exchange of both culture and food.
    • This “Columbian Exchange” DOUBLED the number of food crops available in Europe.
    • The development of distinctive regional cuisines dovetailed with the emergence of nationalism in Europe, leading to the distinctive cuisines we know today.
    • Tomatoes were cultivated in the sunny climate of Italy Potatoes were adapted in Ireland, Germany, and most of Europe.
    • Chilies became an integral part of Hungarian and Spanish Cuisine
  • 12. The Columbian Exchange Source IACP
  • 13. The Impact of the Columbian Exchange
    • The adaption of the “new” nutritious crops, like potatoes lead to larger, better fed populations: Ireland, Germany for example.
    • The increase in European population assisted in the advance of the Industrial Revolution.
    • Using horses, the Indians were able to hunt big game more efficiently and helped the Plains Indians to defend their lands during the 19 th century.
  • 14. What Is… A Spice Or An Herb?
    • The leaf of a plant = herb (ex: cilantro)
    • The balance of the plant = ( ex: coriander)
    • Spices typically come from tropical climates
    • Herbs are grown all over the world
  • 15. Spice Comes In Many Forms
    • Clove - Bud
    • Galangal - Root
    • Cinnamon- Tree Bark
    • Cumin- Seed
    • Saffron- Stigma
  • 16. Most Spices Are Dried
    • Drying removes water. It leaves the essential oils, allowing naturally occurring enzymes to create flavor.
    • Examples include:
    • VANILLA CLOVE ALLSPICE PEPPERCORN
  • 17. Drying Methods
    • Drying methods can have a major effect on the
    • concentration of oils/flavor.
    • Sun dried Vanilla tends to be “fragrant”
    • Oven dried Vanilla tends to be “moist”
    • Oven dried Paprika tends to be “sweeter”
  • 18. Herbs
    • Some herbs are better dried.
    • The concentration of oils makes them a better choice for slow cooked dishes.
    • Examples: Oregano, Bouquet Garni Tip: Finish slow cooked dishes with fresh herbs. They will add delicate top notes, color and texture.
  • 19. Buying and Storing
    • Buy whole spices and store at 55-70 degrees
    • Grinding ruptures the cell walls/extracts essence
    • Grinding promotes evaporation of the oil/essence
    • Ground spices tend to quickly evaporate
    • Nutmeg for example looses its top notes quickly.
    • Vapor barrier packaging will greatly extend the life of
    • ground spices, rubs and spice blends.
  • 20. Sense of Smell
    • Our sense of taste is greatly influenced by our sense of smell. It is responsible for about 80% of what we taste.
    • Without our sense of smell, our sense of taste is limited to only five distinct sensations: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umani.
    • All other flavors that we experience come from smell. This is why, when our nose is blocked, as by a cold, most foods seem bland or tasteless.
    • Our sense of smell becomes stronger when we are hungry .
  • 21. Sensitivity
    • Taste occurs everywhere in the oral cavity
    • But most sensitive area is the tongue
    • Highest concentration of taste are on the back
    • As we age taste bud production slows down.
    • Children often experience taste intensely
    • The intensity of the sense of taste fades for older adults
  • 22. Role of Receptors
    • Receptors are distributed in the tongue region.
    • They work together in a cluster arrangement
    • of peptides and amino acids to communicate
    • with the brain.
    • In this regard they are unique across the sensory system.
  • 23. Spicy Curry or a Hamburger?
    • Life’s experiences influence our sense of taste
    • Number of taste buds is the biggest determinate of taste preferences
    • Taste Buds= Number of Fungiform Papillate
    • Try the Blue Dot Test:
    • Place a ¼” circle on your tongue. Paint it with blue food dye and count your taste buds.
    • You see if you are: Super Taster: +35 taste buds/fungiform papillate or more per ¼ circle Medium Taster: 15-35 ( about 50% of population) Non Taster: 15 or less
    • Typically: Super Tasters dislike broccoli, alcohol and chilies, but love sweet! Non Tasters like big lush wines, expresso and stinky cheese too .
    biology.about.com
  • 24. 5 Main Tastes
    • Salty: created by sodium chloride ions of salt pass directly on the tongue
    • Sour: detects acids through hydrogen ions that detect hydronium dissociated from an acid
    • Sweetness: produced by sugars and proteins. We need 2 sweetness receptors to be activated for the brain to get “the sweet” signal: taste receptor T1R3 and the taste G protein gustducin.
    • Bitterness: like sweetness, bitterness is sensed by the G protein coupled to gustducin. Scientists think this “unpleasant” taste evolved as a way to protect us from poisoning.
    • Umani : produced by free glutamates found in fermented or aged foods ( Soy Sauce) Note: Umani /glutamate sensation is intensified with sodium.
    • Taste buds communicate with the brain through nerve fibers.
  • 25. Our Adaptive Palate
    • The most acute flavor sensation to humans is SWEET.
    • But after the initial sensation, the intensity of the sweetness leaves.
    • Our palate “adapts” to the sensation.
    • Tip: Varying flavors should enhance a dining experience .
  • 26. We Don’t Just Taste With Our Tongues!
    • Cells of the gut taste glucose through the same mechanisms used by taste cells of the tongue. The gut taste cells regulate secretion of insulin and hormones that regulate appetite .
    • Big implications for diabetes and diet.
    • This may f acilitate how were manage sugar uptake from our diets and regulate blood sugar levels. Cinnamon anyone?
    Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070820175426.htm
  • 27. How To Think About Flavoring
    • Spices/seasonings can be used individually or in combination to create flavor.
    • Celery Seed brings out other flavors - Cole Slaw
    • Chipotle Chili is a nice accent flavor – Mayonnaise
  • 28. Flavor Groupings Umani: Soy Sauce fish sauce black bean miso grilled meats Pungent: Ajowan asafetida caraway cardamom celery seed cloves cumin dill seed fenugreek Galangal juniper berry mace nigella orris root star anise Unifying: Coriander see fennel paprika poppy seed sesame seed turmeric Hot: Chilies horse radish wasabi mustard black white pepper Tangy: Amchur black lime caper kokam pomegranate sumac tamarind Sweet: Allspice anise cassia cinnamon nutmeg vanilla
  • 29. Creating Blends
    • When blending you are combining Top Middle Base flavors . (much like a perfume)
    • Balanced Blend: Flavors are orchestrated
    • Cascading Blend: Flavors emerge as you taste
    • Accent Blend : Built around a flavor note.
  • 30. Where Is The Industry Going?
    • Spices are being replaced
    • Synthetic flavors are taking over the role
    • spices have traditionally played.
    • Modern flavor enhancers are so powerful that only a tiny part per million is needed. They are fast becoming the preference of large processors
    • Why: Predicable supply, low cost, shelf stability.
  • 31. Health Benefits
    • This is a list of some spices with reputed health benefits.
    • Cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce can increase metabolism and fat-burning ability by up to 25%.
    • Ginger speeds metabolic rate, plus it inhibits nausea and vomiting often caused by morning sickness or motion sickness.
    • Peppermint is used to treat gastric and digestive disorders, as well as tension and insomnia.
    • Mustard is a stimulant that can be used to relieve respiratory complaints.
    • Horseradish is a relative of the mustard family that acts as a digestive stimulant.
    • Cinnamon is often used as an antidote for diarrhea and stomach upset as well as a metabolism booster.
    • Allspice is an aromatic stimulant that helps to relieve indigestion and gas.
    • Regular consumption of garlic can decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It also aids digestion and prevents flatulence. Recent research shows garlic to be beneficial in the treatment of diabetes.
    • Turmeric is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and therefore protects against cancer.
    © 2009 Juliet Mae, all rights reserved.