Updated: Jun 19, 2021
If that were the question put to a French connoisseur of wines on a dinner table, the wine bottle would end up on the waiter’s head. The French, as we know, are picky about their wine, the Pinots Noirs, Cabernet Sauvignons, Malbecs, Merlots and Chardonnays – names for which I had to do 3 rounds of spell checks and Google references are part of the day to day French “repertoire” as they call it. The seasoning, ripening, sweetness, sourness of the grape aside, even the slope of the hill from where the grape that made the wine came from matters to the French. Do you know that it is illegal to call Champagne Champagne till the grape comes from the French region called Champagne? Most Indian wine drinkers will be in jail if that law were to be imposed here.
You will be wondering what a wine illiterate person like me is doing here blabbering about wine types and the French? Well, while I don’t know wine, I do know a bit about Spice. I know that the variety of spice that our country produces is as differentiated as is the Wine of France. As an example, the Chilli from Guntur tastes, smells, looks, and flavours the food completely differently compared to the Chilli from Byadgi, Kashmir, Nagaland, Rajasthan, or Salem. This is just Chillies - there are some 14 varieties of which that India produces, forget about the other spices that India produces in abundance. Now how have we nurtured that differentiation you would ask? Where are the Chilly equivalents of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and Chardonnay in the Indian market?? The answer is that there are NONE… ZILCH … NADA. The ONLY way red chilli is classified in India is How Red and How Hot (Now tell me who should get that bottle on the head 😊). In fact, there is a formal Hotness Code (Called the SHU Code) and a Colour Code (ASTA Code) basis which ALL chilli from India gets exported to the world. (SHU stands for Scoville (an American Scientist) Heat Unit and ASTA is the American Spice Trade Association – while on the other hand India is the largest exporter and consumer of Chillies in the world).
The soil of our country has given us a Spice resource that we should be proud of, that we should conserve, preserve and grow – and what do we do with it? How Hot - How Red is the pitiable high we have got it to, perhaps it is a result of years of exploitation and foreign rule but ultimately the blame rests with us. With the new generation in command, the Make in India environment and a growing national pride it is time to change that, at FreshGround that is our mission – do join in.
Cheers (Santé or Souhait Avant de Boireas as the French say it)
PS 1: After proof reading this post my daughter said, “Hope the French don’t read it”. For the record - I love the French and for that matter the Americans and the British. PS 2: The Chilli seed originally came to India from South America and has been part of the human diet since 7500 BC.