Kate Humble tells us about travelling the world to find out where some of our favourite flavours come from…
So what is The Spice trail all about?
“It’s about those little jars, tucked away in the kitchen cupboard, and the amazing stories behind them.”
What was your most interesting experience?
“Well, I can exclusively reveal I’m not just an ordinary citizen any more. I’m a princess! And I’ve got a sash to prove it. I was made a princess by the sultanate of Ternate – it’s the centre of the clove-growing world! Ternate has a Sultan and everything has to go through him.
“They took one look at me and went ‘You’re far too scruffy.’ How embarrassing is this – I had to be lent an outfit! It was this incredibly sequinned affair. All I was going to do was say, ‘Hi, we’re from the BBC’, and the next thing, I’m a princess with a sash. So now I’m obviously going to expect red carpets wherever I go! As princess of Ternate, I urge everybody to go there… particularly if they like cloves!”
Was it tough for the old explorers to find these spices?
“Yes, now we’ve got Sat Nav and Google Earth, but these guys had no idea that the world extended beyond the Mediterranean. It was amazingly brave and pioneering. People always trot out the phrase ‘voyage of discovery’, but for me it really has been. In the 1400s, pepper was like medieval bling – like having diamonds on your table. The people who worked on the docks couldn’t have pockets or cuffs. Literally, a handful of peppercorns could have set them up for life!”
So how will you use your new-found knowledge of all things spicy when you are cooking?
“Well, I won’t hoard spices for years and think they’re going to taste of anything, because they’re not. And if you go to a place where they grow spices, buy locally. You will never have tasted anything like it. To keep these amazing stories and spices and the people that rely on them alive, it’s up to us to seek out the real deal and buy it. It’s absolutely worth it.”
*The Spice Trail screens on BBC2 from Thursday, February 17