These flavours which O Food are thine throughout the regions,
are diffused like winds; they have their place in heaven.
– Mandala 1, Hymn 187, Rig Veda
In Ancient Rome, the celebrated gourmand Apicius penned a cookbook in which 350 out of its 500 recipes called for the use of peppers and other Indian spices. High-profile dinner parties in Ancient Rome were made possible by journeys to India where gold and silver were exchanged for pepper and spices.
Pepper was equal in value to gold and silver, and at times used as currency. Greek philosopher Pliny the Elder complained “there is no year in which India does not drain the Roman Empire of fifty million sesterces”.
The craze for pepper and spices inspired near-impossible voyages. If anything, it shows that the story of civilization is also the story of food and cooking. Few have mastered the art of cuisine quite like India who can claim to have developed the world’s first international crossover cuisine. It is no wonder that it would one day become the culinary mainstay of India’s last colonizers.