Thursday, November 21, 2013

Worldbuilding: Origins of Herbs and Spices

Food is a crucial part of worldbuilding.  This is a point you can be certain that I will keep coming back to.  And all foodstuffs, while helping define a culture, has a point of origin. You shouldn't just throw in a few herbs and spices at random and say, "There!  Food as worldbuilding. Done."  You should think about where these foods have their origins, and apply that sort of thinking to your own world.

Now, that doesn't mean you need to give pure one-to-one correlation.  Vanilla has its origins in the Americas, as do peppers and potatoes... but don't feel like you need to create a psuedo-Americas where all three come from if you want all in your world.  But you should make deliberate choices, and you should be aware of the real-world origins of foods. 

And, of course, cultures can import and fully adopt herbs and spices from other areas, and that's a crucial element of worldbuilding.  Cultures do not exist in a vacuum; they bleed into each other.  By making the herb or spice originating from one region of the world a critical element of the cuisine of another region, you've already told a lot about that culture.

So, in the interest of "I'll make your research a little easier", here's a quick list-- but hardly exhaustive-- of various herbs and spices and their areas of origin.  Hope you find it helpful.

Basil – India / Southeast Asia
Bay Laurel - Mediterranean
Chervil – Eastern Europe
Coriander/Cilantro – Southern Europe/Northern Africa
Dill – Europe
Epazote – Mexico / Central America / South America
Fennel – Meditteranean
Garlic – Central Asia
Lavender – Western Europe
Mint - Mediterranean / Western Asia
Marjoram – Cypress/ Southern Turkey
Oregano – Western Europe / Mediterranean
Parsley – Mediterranean
Rosemary – Mediterranean
Saffron - Mediterranean / Western Asia
Sage - Mediterranean
Savory – Western Europe
Sumac – North America & Africa
Tarragon – Europe & Asia
Thyme - Mediterranean / Western Asia
Wasabi – Japan
Watercress – Europe / Asia   

Achiote / Annatto  - South America
Allspice – Southern Mexico / Central America / Greater Antilles
Anise – Eastern Mediterranean / Western Asia
Cardamom – India/Nepal/Bhutan
Caraway – Western Asia / Northern Africa
Chili – Americas
Cinnamon – Southeast Asia
Clove – Indonesia
Cumin – Mediterranean / Western Asia /India
Fenugreek – Persia / India
Filé – Eastern North America
Ginger – South Asia
Horseradish – Southeastern Europe
Juniper – Mediterranean
Mace / Nutmeg – Indonesia
Mustard - Mediterranean / Western Asia
Paprika – Americas
Pepper – India
Tumeric – India
Vanilla – Mexico/Central America

1 comment:

Auden Johnson said...

I've been trying to figure out food for my world. This post helps me a lot. Thanks!