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Hello. My name is Paul Sherman.
I'm a professor of biology at Cornell University in Ithaca New York, USA.
Today, I'd like to discuss with you a topic with which we are all familiar,
why we cook with spices.
Most of us think of this as simply making food taste good,
but I'm going to show you that in addition it is a fascinating example
of preventative Darwinian medicine.
For thousands of years, spices have been valuable in cooking and as items of trade.
Here you see depicted an ancient spice market.
For example, in 408 AD,
Alarich who was the leader of the Goths laid siege to Rome.
As ransom he demanded 5,000 pounds of gold.
We can all understand that.
But in addition, he demanded 3,000 pounds of pepper.
This gives you an idea of how valuable the substance pepper was even at that time.
In the middle ages, the spice trade literally opened up the world as
brave seafarers journeyed to far off lands to obtain spices.
For example, famed early explorers for spices included;
Marco Polo from Italy,
Christopher Columbus and Hernando Cortez from Spain,
Pedro Cabral, Vasco Da Gama,
and Ferdinand Magellan from Portugal.
These brave men were willing to sail off the edge
of the known Earth in order to find spices.
Why? Why are these substances so valuable?
Let us begin by first defining what a spice really is.
Spice is not a scientific term but rather a culinary term.