Monday, November 06, 2006

Spice Story

My masala box at home always has cinnamon in it - our ritual Saturday biryani is incomplete without this magic bark.

The Romans used cinnamon, so did the Greeks, but until a few hundred years ago, myths about the origins of cinnamon persisted.

I was amused to read this description of cinnamon, by Herotodus, the fifth century BC Greek historian, who thought cinnamon came from Arabia, from giant birds!

Here is what he wrote, in all seriousness :

"Large birds bring those dry sticks called cinnamon for their nests, which are built with clay on precipitous mountains that no men can scale.

To surmount this difficulty, the Arabians have invented the following artifice: having cut up into large pieces the limbs of dead oxen and other beasts of burden, they leave them near the nests and retire to a distance.

The birds fly down and carry off the joints to their nests, which are not strong enough to support the weight of the meat and fall to the ground. Then the men come up and gather the cinnamon, and in this manner it reaches all countries

Apparently, he had heard rumours of edible birds nests, so he put two and two together, and decided the nests were made of cinnamon :)

- Deepa

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