A recent study tried to explain the divide in Eastern and Western culinary philosophy though some nifty data crunching. Researchers from the Indian Institute for Technology in Jodhpur looked up the ingredient lists for more than 2,000 Indian recipes. They then analyzed the chemical components of these ingredients, looking at the compounds that, when combined, give foods their taste.
They concluded that what makes Indian cuisine so exquisite is its tendency to bring together lots of different ingredients with flavor molecules that don’t overlap.
That’s quite different from how Western cuisine works — previous research has shown that it relies on pairing ingredients that, at the molecular level, share lots of similar flavor compounds.
Why the difference? The answer, it turns out, has just as much to do with economics, politics and religion as it does taste.
Ah, nutmeg! Whether it’s sprinkled on eggnog, baked into spice cake or blended into a latte, this pungent spice can evoke memories of holidays past.
But a lot of blood has been shed over this little brown seed. “Nutmeg has been one of the saddest stories of history,” says culinary historian Michael Krondl. It’s a gruesome, grisly tale of how the Dutch tortured and massacred the people of the nutmeg-producing Banda Islands in Indonesia in an attempt to monopolize the nutmeg trade.