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Spice of Life

Alamelu Vairavan, a Whitefish Bay resident, is an author and culinary instructor. Alamelu has a passion for educating the public about the use of spices and legumes in preparing healthy and tasty foods. She is also interested in educating the public about the growing research that points to the enormous health benefits of spices in preventing many diseases. Her mission is to enrich people's culinary experience and to inspire them to discover that cooking and sharing healthful foods can be an especially joyful experience.

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The King of Spices

Guess what spice is considered the king of all spices? It is "Black Pepper".  According to the history of spices, black pepper was a highly valued spice in Europe, and in 1498 Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese explorer, went on a long sea-voyage to India primarily in search of pepper! Until he discovered a sea route to India, the spice was brought to Europe by land through Arab traders who kept the land route a secret. In the 15th century, the West valued pepper as much as gold. Demand was huge and the supply was short. Today pepper is freely available around the world and is almost used in every cuisine. It is rightly known as the "king of spices". 

India was ruled by the British for more than 200 years. In 1947, India became independent. When British ruled India, according to a popular story, a chef from the state of  Tamil Nadu, served an Englishman a soup of lentils with garlic, ginger and black pepper. When the Englishman asked for the name of the soup, the chef replied,  “Molagu Thanni”, which means literally, pepper water (known as rasam)  in Tamil. “Splendid” remarked the Englishman. Let us have “Mulligatawny” more often, shall we? And a legend of the Mulligatawny soup was born. Even today, it is served as a soup in many Indian restaurants in England.

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