Venetian culinary heritage, how to benefit from spices and the Venetian Spice Glossary.
In this part we are introducing you to the world of Venetian Spices by means of a Spice Glossary. Loads of spices arrived Venice from the 7th century AD until the year 1797, and the Venetian spezeri – spice masters refined them and created unique mixtures which were resold to all countries of Europe via Venice. During the times of the Republic, they worked in their laboratorio, whose front part was at the same time the spice store and apothecary, called spezeria.
Li spez(i)eri didn’t just mix the sachéti venexiáni – elaborate packets containing exclusive spice creations. They used exotic spices and blossoms from the Indian Ocean area, India, China, Persia, Syria and Egypt and sometimes enriched these mixtures with local herbs and blossoms. To make a long story short, was these Venetian spice masters creating the recipes for remedies used in Venice and Europe (!!!) until the 18th century.
The Venetian spezieri were the sources of experts living in continental Europe, such as Paracelsus and Hildegard von Bingen. The shared Venetian knowledge all over Europe and created recipes based on the Venetian books. So yes – there were recipe books that accompanied the Venetian spice bags traded all over Europe by the Merchants of Venice.
In the 15th century, the spezieri in Venice started specializing. Some were producing little pills and powders containing herbs and spices. Others, as spezieri da conféti created little artworks made from sugar, nuts, blossoms and spices.
Finally, in Venice the first farmacie (pharmacies) opened, and sold products from both ranges.
In a way, Drogheria Mascari can be considered a modern successor of the ancient Venetian spice masters. Read more about them and the Venetian spice heritage on La Venessiana.
In Venice, each plant, tree, shrub and herb could tell a story – not just each house and campo 🙂 While the urban features and architecture of our town are quite well known and looked after, our immaterial heritage of Venice has all but been neglected over the centuries.
A lot of ingredients from which Venetian spezièri (spice experts, apothecaries, patissiers and chefs) created a unique fusion kitchen, combing local plants, exotic herbs and blossoms, and spices from Asia and Africa.
During their decade-long trips, the spice merchants came across Ayurvedic dishes and traditional Chinese medicine as far back as the 10th century. Marco Polo was just amongst these first explorers. Venice being a province of Byzantium, food was influenced from the beginning by ancient Greek and Roman dishes, and they took up the notions of health and remedies from Greek physicians.
There was a distribution of roles amongst the Merchants of Venice and the Venetian spezieri (spice masters which later became apothecaries, cooks and pastry chefs). The Merchants picked up this style of cooking overseas, in Persia, Syria, Armenia, Arabia, India, China and other South-East Asian countries. They had the recipes collected in scripts and books. Using these books and the spices, the Venetian spezièri created their own spice mixtures. The result was a unique fusion kitchen, complete with ancient Greek, Arab, Ayurvedic and TCM elements. It’s a style of its own, combing all these elements yet so unique.
Want to know more about Venetian spice food, and how we still use spices today ? Click here to view the secret world of Venetian spices and upcoming e-books and e-courses!