INTRODUCTION AND HISTORY:
Indian food and spices have been popular all over the world since ancient times. The Romans imported spices from India as early as 77 CE. Arab traders imported spices from India before the beginning of the Common Era. In the Middle Ages, Indian cuisine and spices became very popular all over the world. All the major kingdoms of Asia and Europe had an active spice trade with India in the Middle Ages. Many battles were also fought at this time, especially between the European powers England, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Spain to gain access to the spice route to India. Indian spices and seasonings were one of the main reasons why the British visited India before they colonized it. Even Christopher Columbus was looking for a sea route to India (to resume the European spice trade with India after the fall of Constantinople) when he accidentally discovered America in 1492.
REASONS FOR THE POPULARITY OF INDIAN CUISINE:
Indian recipes have traditionally been known for the simple style of cooking where the nutritional value of the food is maintained while the flavor is enhanced with the use of spices and masalas. The concept of pickles and salads also originated in India. They were served with the main course and acted as an appetizer to stimulate the taste buds.
Different parts of India had their own local traditions and cultures. The food and recipes from the different regions were also very diverse. In North India, wheat has been the staple, while in South and East India, rice is the staple. Food habits also vary according to climatic conditions, geographic location and the main crops of that region. For example, in the coastal regions of India, seafood and fish recipes are more popular, while in central India, vegetarian cuisines are more popular. However, there is hardly a situation where a popular food from any part of India is completely new in another region of India. This is due to the food culture of India, where people trade food with their neighbors and friends, especially during festive seasons. This is common in all parts of India and has helped spread the popularity of various regional dishes in other parts of India.
The festivals and the food prepared during the festivals also have their own significance. For example, in Maharashtra, Makar Sankranti is observed in the month of January. Bajra rotis (pearl millet breads) and sweets made from brown sugar and Til (mole) are served during this festival, as eating these items during winter is highly beneficial in maintaining body temperature. These festivals help create a situation where no one feels the compulsion to eat healthy food depending on the weather conditions, but instead enjoys doing so with the festive activities. The popularity of Indian festivals across the world has also helped the popularity of Indian food.
The Indian medical science known as Ayurveda is known for its easy and natural way of treatment. The basis of Ayurveda is healthy Indian food and herbs. Yoga’s mental and physical conditioning exercises also originated in ancient India. Indian food and cooking has traditionally been drawn from the yogic philosophy of cooking and eating. So with the popularity of Ayurveda, Yoga, etc., people from all over the world have realized the health benefits of Indian food.
In modern times, Indian expatriates from around the world have helped popularize Indian cuisine. Although Indian cuisine has been popular in the UK and many other parts of Europe and the Middle East since the Middle Ages, it has become very popular in North America and the rest of the world mainly due to Indians settling abroad. No wonder countries like USA, UK, Canada and Australia have several restaurants and hotels that only serve Indian food.
With the massive growth of cable television in the last few decades, food shows are appearing on television channels all over the world. Indian recipes are part of the various recipes taught in those programs. Therefore, cable TV also had a major role in increasing the popularity of Indian cuisine.
Indian cuisine is known for its variety, nutritional value, and great taste. Most recipes rely on the use of various flavor-enhancing spices.