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The spicy food law - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

The spicy food law [May. 18th, 2008|04:45 pm]
Arvind Narayanan
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People often ask me: "so which is the spicier cuisine again, North or South Indian?" It appears that the law (in the sense of natural law) that describes the spiciness of regional cuisines is not as well-known as it should be. Here it is, behold its simplicity:
The spiciness of a regional cuisine is completely and accurately determined by the average temperature of the region.
This explains why Thai and other South Asian cuisines are very spicy, South Indian food is spicier than North Indian, and Russian food is impossibly bland.

The reason for the law is equally simple. Historically, the function of spices was food preservation. Our taste for them is an evolutionary adaptation to a survival need, rather than the other way around. Before the invention of refrigeration, you had to put spices into food to keep it from going bad. And naturally, the hotter the environment, the faster bacteria grew, and the more spices you'd need to dump into food you wanted to preserve.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2008-05-19 06:58 am (UTC)
oh, i didn't put too much thought into that word. i guess i meant geographic average. it could well be the summer temperature that's relevant, i don't know.

i'm quite certain that south indian is more spicy. and why why why does caste come into everything? please?
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From: kupamanduka
2008-05-19 07:41 am (UTC)
Dude, it isn't quite that I like to bring in caste everywhere - there is actually a great variation in cuisine between various castes - more than just the avoiding of onion/garlic/non-veg. Typically brAhmins don't cook very spicy food, AFAIK because that isn't considered very sAttvik ( bhagavad-gIta characterizes very bitter, acidic, salty etc. foods as rAjasic and brAhmins actually seem to avoid that ). I remember hearing from some ( translated ) ancient Tamil text descriptions of how different the food of brAhmins were. Similarly the ceTTiars extensively traded with south east Asia which is why in spite of ceTTinADu being farther away from coast their cuisine involved much more coconut than rest of Tamil Nadu. Even between Iyers and Iyengars there are not-so-subtle culinary differences. One often sees in mallu magazines during Ramzan "Moplah recipes" or Muslim specials. Plus "habit-formation" and the ( caste-dependent ) poverty factor I mentioned etc. These days of course a lot of homogenization is taking place ( I am not cribbing ).

And if you are brought up on a diet low in spiciness you would have to put considerable effort to start liking spicy food, which was perhaps one reason why the distinctions were preserved.

I thought the summer temperatures in many cities of North India were as high or higher than most south Indian cities - like Delhi etc.?
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