Revisited Myth # 31: Spices were used to mask the flavor and odors of rotting food.

History Myths Debunked

Francis C. writes: Please do post something about food myths – the one regarding medieval people heavily spicing their food to hide the fact that it was rotten is still around!

spices

My pleasure, Francis. This is a myth that targets people of many era from medieval Europe to early America. But never mind my words–here is author Bill Bryson, trying to debunk this myth in his book, At Home: “The only people who could afford most spices were the ones least likely to have bad meat, and anyway spices were too valuable to be used as a mask. . . people used them carefully and sparingly, and not as a sort of flavorsome cover-up.”

Because they came from so far away–the aptly named Spice Islands, aka the East Indies–spices were very expensive and, for many centuries, only for the richest Westerners. Not the sort of people who ate rotten…

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