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About the Foundation

Seasoning

Seasoning enhances the taste of food, augmenting its flavour or even adding a new one. Salt, pepper, aromatic herbs, spices and bouquet garni are the main kinds of seasoning. Salt adds its own flavour, saltiness, and brings out the aromas in dishes. Spices and aromatic plants provide new aromas and sensations.
AL017-08 Préparation - Assaisonnement - Epices
© Shutterstock / mythja - Selection of herbs and spices

The ingredients of seasoning

Enhancing the taste of a product, increasing its flavour or even adding a new one are all part of the art of seasoning. Salt, aromatic herbs, spices and bouquet garni are the main ingredients. Salt adds its own flavour, saltiness, and brings out the aromas in dishes. Spices and aromatic plants add aromas or other sensations, such as heat and spiciness. Spices may be used alone or blended, whole or powdered. To preserve their aromatic power for as long as possible, it is advisable to buy them in their original state, as seeds, stems or roots for instance, and to grind or grate them when required.

Some fermented products have powerful flavours and aromas that are also used for seasoning. Soy sauce for example, the typical seasoning used in Japanese cuisine, is not made from spices or aromatic herbs. This product is derived from the complex fermentation of soya and wheat. Likewise, Nuoc mam, an ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine, is made from fermented fish.

Spices, herbs and aromatic plants: their uses over the centuries

Most herbs and spices were originally used for their medicinal properties. Over time, experience has revealed the many ways in which these plants are important, and how to use them for seasoning dishes. Some spices used in cookery today, such as cinnamon, ginger, saffron and clove, have been used for a very long time. Others, like galangal, have completely disappeared.

During Antiquity and the Middle Ages, spices were very costly. They presented an opportunity for people to distinguish themselves socially. Pepper has continued to be present in many recipes since Antiquity. It played an important role in Roman cookery and is found in over three-quarters of Apicius’ recipes, contained in a publication from the 4th century. In the medieval era, spices were used massively, often masking the natural flavour of food.

In the 18th century, despite a drop in their consumption, spices continued to play an important role in cookery. This period was dominated by a spice blend made up of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, mace and cloves. This blend was used to season stews, sauces, vegetables, drinks and desserts. The spices were stored in small boxes divided into compartments which replaced the cabinets of the medieval era. Although they became increasingly affordable, they were less commonly used from the second half of the 19th century.

Plants and aromatic herbs, such as bay, thyme, rosemary, parsley or chives, have been used alongside spices since time immemorial. They are among the ingredients in a bouquet garni and may also be found in purée form, in pesto for example.

Curry: an infinite variety of flavours

Indian cuisine is characterised by curry, a blend of around twenty spices which varies by region, caste and usage. There are infinite variations. However, curry must contain cinnamon, coriander, cumin, turmeric, pepper, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. The spicy sensation of curry depends to a large extent on the amount of pepper and chilli added.

Flavours that have stood the test of time

Christmas biscuits and gingerbread are delicacies that date back to the 18th century. They continue to evoke the flavour of the spice blend used in that era.