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Above all, medieval recipes involve the combination of medical and culinary lore in order to balance food's humeral properties and prevent disease.Most spices were hot and dry and so appropriate in sauces to counteract the moist and wet properties supposedly possessed by most meat and fish.
Merchant guilds that supplied spices were variously known as "spicers," "apothecaries," or "pepperers." Inventories and account books of pharmacies show that such culinary stalwarts as pepper, cinnamon and ginger were sold in many varieties and in different medical prescriptions. In the Libre del Coch of Master Robert, written for the king of Naples, are about 200 recipes, 154 of which call for sugar, 125 require cinnamon, 76 ginger, and 54 saffron.
Spices ordered for the wedding of George "the Rich," Duke of Bavaria, and Jadwiga of Poland in 1475 included 386 pounds of pepper, 286 pounds of ginger, 257 pounds of saffron, 205 pounds of cinnamon, pounds of cloves, and 85 pounds of nutmeg.
However, other products also inspired exploration, war, conquest and ultimately the emergence of a closely integrated world trading system.
One such product awaits in small bottles and packages on the shelves of supermarkets and corner markets: spices.
One widely disseminated explanation for medieval demand for spices was that they covered the taste of spoiled meat.
Spices were more expensive than meat, and fresh meat was available, as suggested by extant records of municipal ordinances prohibiting butchers from throwing unwanted animal parts and blood in the streets.Spices were also thought to have medicinal properties, adding to their allure.These are only some of the reasons that spices obtained such distinction and ultimately became globally traded products, which in turn helped develop integrated economic networks.The desire for aromatic substances has had immense historical repercussions, the effects of which are being felt long after the vogue of spices has diminished.In a handbook of practical wisdom written by the Florentine merchant Francesco Pegolotti in the early 14th century, some 288 spices are listed, including items like alum, used as a dye fixative.Even so, the variety of imported aromatic substances is astounding and suggests a high demand, including "long pepper" and "grains of Paradise," both peppery in taste but unrelated to black pepper, as well "dragon's blood," a dye and also a drug ingredient.So, why were spices so highly prized in Europe in the centuries from about 1000 to 1500?Salting, smoking or drying meat were other means of preservation.Most spices used in cooking began as medical ingredients, and throughout the Middle Ages spices were used as both medicines and condiments.Far from the idea of simply grilling meat, medieval food required chopping, molding, simmering and various steps including sauces or aspic.The demand for spices may then be said to combine a taste for strongly flavored food, a belief in their medicinal properties, and also the sense of well-being, refinement and health the fragrance was said to confer, similar to the claims made by those practicing aromatherapy in recent years.