Walk along the isle of a supermarket’s spice area or a specialized spice store and one will immediately be aware of the aroma. Spices and human beings are old friends. In earlier times, various aromatic herbs were gathered to improve the taste of food. But requiring the spices meant using many men and animals for the carrying of the purchases overland. Also it was only the wealthy who could afford them.
But times were changing. Portuguese sailors, led by Vasco da Gama, managed, in 1497, to round the Cape of Good Hope and sail into the Indian Ocean. After a while as he moved in unknown waters, an expert local pilot guided him to Calicut on India’s coast. At first he was not successful in gaining spices but, despite many of his sailors dying of scurvy, he managed to return to Portugal with pepper and other products. Portuguese ships continued with voyages to the Indian Ocean so as to bring spices for sale.
This period, the early 15th century to the early 17th century, was not known for nothing as the Age of Discovery and Exploration. It did not take too long for other European countries to begin their own voyages. The Spice Trade and whatever else was available, a share was demanded no matter the cost to the people providing them in these lands.
Back in Europe a group of Dutch businessmen got together and formed the Dutch East India Company. Ships were sent to the East and, while they were about it, they set up a refreshment station in 1652 at the foot of Table Mountain to aid the health of scurvy ridden sailors. The English, never one to stand aside, sent their explorers in the same direction as fast as was possible. Expensive spices were flowing in huge amounts to Europe. By 1795 the English ousted the Dutch and took over the Cape of Good Hope.
Discovery and Exploration certainly marked a new period in history even if a marauding one. It opened parts of the world previously unknown.
Just think how bland our food would be if we did not have pepper, curry, cinnamon, cloves, etc.
The money that would flow from the demand and availability for SPICES which would help create a cuisine not tasted before!
Please note this article applies specifically to the Age of Discovery of the Indian Ocean countries