[Sca-cooks] Spices: a thought and a question

James Prescott prescotj at telusplanet.net
Fri May 1 21:17:38 PDT 2009

I was reading "The Taste of Conquest" (M. Krondl) and a thought
occurred to me.

Might a small, but not negligible, contributing factor towards
the period consumption of spices have been to mask, while eating
a meal, the smell of *humans* and their habitations?

Has this question been discussed?

We have possible indicators.  The alleged decline of bathing
through the period, allegedly due to Church teachings.  The
use of pomaders held under the nose.  The strewing of herbs
underfoot in banquet halls.  The lack of proper chimneys at
least in early period, leading at times to signficant indoor
smoke.  The alleged non-laundry of outer garments.  The alleged
multi-day wearing of middle garments (e.g. under-tunics).  The
use of open privies in or adjacent to dwellings.  The presence
of animals at table.  Bad dental hygiene especially as sugar
became more popular.  The serving from across the table in
some cases (keeps a potentially worse-smelling servant further
from you than an over-the-shoulder serving would).  And so on.

I am not thinking of this as a major stimulus towards spice
use, but it might have been one of several minor stimuli.

I've done no research to see if there is any mention of this
in contemporary sources.


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