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However, other products also inspired exploration, war, conquest and ultimately the emergence of a closely integrated world trading system.One such product awaits in small bottles and packages on the shelves of supermarkets and corner markets: spices.Even so, the variety of imported aromatic substances is astounding and suggests a high demand, including "long pepper" and "grains of Paradise," both peppery in taste but unrelated to black pepper, as well "dragon's blood," a dye and also a drug ingredient.
Clearly, recipes from the era called for not only large quantities of spices, but also a great variety.
Spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg associated with desserts were used in meat and fish dishes. Styles in cooking change, and given the modern preference for spicy dishes, we can appreciate the medieval culinary aesthethic that emphasized color, ingenuity and a high degree of processing.
Salting, smoking or drying meat were other means of preservation.
Most spices used in cooking began as medical ingredients, and throughout the Middle Ages spices were used as both medicines and condiments.
One widely disseminated explanation for medieval demand for spices was that they covered the taste of spoiled meat.
Spices were more expensive than meat, and fresh meat was available, as suggested by extant records of municipal ordinances prohibiting butchers from throwing unwanted animal parts and blood in the streets.
Far from the idea of simply grilling meat, medieval food required chopping, molding, simmering and various steps including sauces or aspic.
The demand for spices may then be said to combine a taste for strongly flavored food, a belief in their medicinal properties, and also the sense of well-being, refinement and health the fragrance was said to confer, similar to the claims made by those practicing aromatherapy in recent years.
Medieval purchasers consumed meat much fresher than what the average city-dweller in the developed world of today has at hand.
However, refrigeration was not available, and some hot spices have been shown to serve as an anti-bacterial agent.