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    Nani, Nanu And Their Spiced Story of Indian History

    6 Jul 2016

    She rolled her eyes in wonder. The curry was so tasty. While licking her fingers for the last trace of curry, she asked her granny – “Nani, how did you make this delicious curry? Even after eating two bowls, I just can’t let go of it. So very yummy!”

    Granny winked and said – “Today, I will tell you about why my food tastes so good. It’s all about spices.”

    Thats the Spiced Story of Indian History in most cases  passed from generation to generation.

    ***

    Nandini is a freelance journalist and she has to stay put in different locations for many months. This allows her to cover all the stories she can get her hands on. But she misses her home-made food. So whenever she gets an opportunity, she visits her home for a few days to eat mouth-watering food and sleep as much as she can. And her granny cooks exquisite food just for her.

    ***

    Nandini was eagerly waiting for Nani. Her Nani tells great stories. She was a teacher when she was young. She said that she still relives those days of telling stories of kings and queens to toddlers.

    ***

    Nani came and sat near Nandini. Nandini said – “Nani, tell me now. I can’t wait anymore.” Granny wore a historical glass and started her story.

    “Nanu, do you know that my cooking improved when I learnt the secret of how much spice one needed to put in curries and vegetables. My mother taught me how to cook with right amount of spices. But that’s not the end of the story.
    “I got interested in spices and found out more about it. I think you can use my story as themes for your articles, what’d you say?”

    Nani grinned and looked at Nandini.

    Nandini chuckled and then said – “Yes, yes, I’ll do that. But tell me the story first.”

    Nani started again.

    “For centuries, India has been considered as the ‘Spice Bowl of the World’. If you go through history, you would see that the stories of spices are as old as Indian history. Tribes of Arab, Rome, Egypt, China, Britain, even Portugal invaded India with one desire in their heart. They wanted to exploit the natural wealth of India and to take advantage of Indian Spices.”

    Nandini said – “Is it Nani? I never knew that.”

    “Yes Nanu.” Nani said.

    “But that’s not the first time we got a mention of Indian spices in Indian history. The first written record of Indian spices was found in Vedas, specifically in Rig Veda. Rig Veda was written in 6000 BC. So you can imagine since when we, Indians, have been using masalas in our food and for other health benefits.”

    Nani paused for a moment, gathered her thoughts and began again.

    “In Rig Vedas, we got many references of Indian spices. Even in Yajur Veda, there’s a mention of black pepper.”
    “So interesting!” Nanu remarked.

    “India has always been a land of grace. In mountains, rain forests, valleys, green fields all over India, you will find abundance of Indian spices. But no-one knew about Indian spices in the beginning. Arab dictated the business of masala for almost 5000 years till European explorers began their journey toward India.

    The spices we now use in our food are so cheap. But back then, it was so expensive that only royal kings could afford to use them. Even gold was used as the exchange for spices. So European knew the value of spices. In 1497 AD, Vasco Da Gama started searching for the spice land. With four tiny ships Da Gama sailed southward from the port of Lisbon, Portugal. During his voyage of 2 years and of 20,000 miles, he discovered Kozhikode on the south west coast of India. It was 1498 AD. And he went back with a huge cargo of cloves, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and peppercorns. Since then, Indian spices became popular worldwide and India remained the hub of all spices.”

    Nanu remarked – “Wow, what a story, Nani!”

    Nani winked and said – “And you know where I was born?” With a chuckle she said – “I was born in Kozhikode from where the history of Indian spices became relevant to the world. Now you know why I cook so well, Don’t you?”
    Nanu giggled, hugged her Nani and whispered in Nani’s ears – “It’s such an amazing story, Nani. I will definitely write about it.”

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