In every Indian kitchen, a ‘masala dabba’ is the most precious possession of every women — ‘masala dabba’ is a box usually with small compartments or bowls containing different spices or spice powders and mixes developed maybe by the woman herself or has been handed down from her mother or mother-in-law, who in turn might have received it from her mother or mother-in-law respectively. It is a tradition or rather a part of heritage in India to part this knowledge about the masalas to your daughter or daughter-in-law. These spices powder preparations are usually guarded secret recipes in many households.
The Spice Routes (the Maritime Silk Roads) finds mention in history which is a network of sea routes from the East to the West. The Spice Routes were the foremost trade routes where traders bought and sold goods from port to port- distance of the routes of over 15000 kilometres ranging from the west coast of Japan, through Indonesian islands around India to the Middle East, across the Mediterranean to Europe. And the most significant and profitable goods that were traded in were – spices, hence the name ‘Spice Route’.
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Spices are usually in the form of a seed, bark, root, fruit or any part of a plant used for flavouring and colouring in foods. There are a variety of spices which have found mention in Ayurvedic literature in as early as the 8th century. Charaka- the first physician who presented the concept of digestion, metabolism and immunity in ancient texts has a mention of spices like cardamom (elaichi), cloves (laung), cassia bark (cinnamon, dalchini), black pepper (kali mirch), nutmeg (jaiphal), mace (javintri), saffron (kesar), turmeric (haldi), coriander seeds (dhania), and many more in such context. The earliest written records of spices also find mention in Egyptian, Chinese along with Indian Cultures. Spices have been used for centuries in medicines, traditional practices, preservation techniques. Indian food preparations are incomplete without the wonderful and fragrant spices available. Indian cuisine itself consists of varied regional cuisines which have their unique food preparations enhanced by the spices. Not only do these spices add flavour and aroma to these food preparations but due to their medicinal qualities are also a healthy provision. Noting the benefits of these spices, every Indian housewife includes these spices and spices powder in her ‘masala dabba’ to nurture and nourish her family.
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