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Karen Bogs: I broke the myths about why we should be so different about seasoning food

Think of a typical Norwegian dish. Boiled white fish (why not the cod present in the current season) white sauce or melted butter and boiled potatoes. A lot of salt. Maybe some kind of pepper, like allspice. The horseradish is also likely to be hot, but it is more questionable.

Not because traditional Swedish food is particularly spicy, but with just over two spices per dish, we are actually a good distance over Norway. Finland and Denmark are both low, but Norway has the lowest record in the Nordic countries. On average, a typical Norwegian recipe contains a minimal amount of spice per dish.

Even the most spicy Japanese food. Regardless of whether you choose the Chugoku, Kyushu, Tohoku, Kanto, Shikoku, Chubu or Kansai regions, the average is less than one type of spice per dish.

At the other end We find Ethiopia. There is a typical dish that contains about seven spices. (For example, sour pancakes infused with teff beans served with some stews.) Indonesia and several Indian regions, such as Punjab, Mughlai and Rajasthan, are also among the highest in the world with around six spices per dish.

This apparent difference between different cultures led to many confident voices commenting on potential connections.

But the statistics are more difficult than most people realize. Interpretive models where one draws “evolution” (in food contexts sometimes called “Darwinian gastronomy”) often ends up wrongly.

Australian Evolutionary Biologist Lendl Broomham and colleagues studied a number of hypotheses about spices in food. Their findings, based on 33,750 recipes from about 70 different cuisines and 93 different spices, were published in the magazine this week. The nature of human behavior.

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The most common myth is that the spice protects against stomach infections, and thus has become common in countries where there are many of these infections for developmental reasons.

Jovars, there are definitely links between foodborne illness and spice in food. And also a relationship between diarrhea in young children and spices. But the truth is, a number of factors exhibit stronger bonds. Lung cancer, malnutrition and war, not to mention deaths in traffic accidents have a much stronger link.

Temperature and latitude Also not loaded as an explanation. On the other hand, there is a clear relationship between income – as measured by the region’s GDP – and the number of spices in the food. Rich countries have some spices, poor countries have more spices.

Its roots can be traced back to colonialism, where spices that are highly valuable and easy to transport played an important role. Colonial countries, such as the Netherlands, England, Spain, and Portugal became richer while countries with many naturally growing spices became poorer.

But no, it is not true, because the GDP and the spice in food also applies to countries that were neither colonies nor colony.

The connection can be due to That some countries have plants where many herbs grow naturally? In principle, plants are more diverse in warm latitudes. But rainfall and seasons are also important. No, it is not possible to see any strong statistical relationship between natural vegetation and the use of spices.

A variety of ethnic groups living close together, and can spice culture enrich each other? No, that cannot be an explanation, according to the new study.

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Food cultures that use a lot of meat, and which are easier to spread infection than vegetarian dishes? There is no difference in the number of spices according to the study.

Lindel Bromham and colleagues do not believe traffic accidents could explain the use of the spice. They just show that there is a statistical relationship.

They don’t even think the explanation lies in whether the regions are rich or poor.

Obviously, the number of spices in food has more complex reasons. Study teaches us to be careful before explaining things using “evolution” and statistics.

Read more of Karen Bogs’ records

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