Airdate: Aug 21, 2001
Scientist: Prof Paul W. Sherman
Spice Cabinet: Medicine Cabinet
Climate has had a distinct influence on the spices used in regional cuisine and their efficacy.
Spice Cabinet - Medicine Cabinet
Music; Ambience: La Paloma, harpist
JM: Next time you open up your spice cabinet, you may not realize it, but an arsenal of bacteria-fighting flavors lay ready and waiting for use. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Paul Sherman is a professor at Cornell University. He and other researchers selected meat recipes from 36 countries around the world, in order to study the different ways that spices are used.
PS: "Our hypothesis, is that spices have a useful function aside from being tasty. And that useful function is to kill, or inhibit the growth of food-borne bacteria and fungi, thereby, making the food safer to eat and also preserving the leftovers. Remember that refrigeration and freezing have only been around about a hundred years, and even today, are only available in certain countries of the world, and not elsewhere. So our idea was that if this hypothesis were correct, spices should be used in greater quantity in hot climates than cool climates because food would spoil faster there. Areas of the world that are hot and that have the most parasites and pathogens, and where they grow the fastest, use the most spices. So, we're talking about Thailand, the Philippines, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Ghana, Vietnam, Brazil, Mexico. These are the areas where spices are used most frequently and where the danger is most present of these food-borne parasites and pathogens. Where as in the Northern climates, where there are fewer parasites and pathogens, and the food spoils therefore much more slowly, there are not many spices used. And we would call the food in those places bland. The point that we want to get across is that food is bland for a reason. Why use pharmaceuticals when they are not necessary."
JM: Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.