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But if the main function of spices is to make food safer to eat, how did our ancestors know which ones to use in the first place? It seems likely that people who happened to add spice plants to meat during preparation, especially in hot climates, would have been less likely to suffer from food poisoning than those who did not.
Also, families that used appropriate spices would rear a greater number of more healthy offspring, to whom spice-use traditions had been demonstrated, and who possessed appropriate taste receptors.
In other words, there is a significant positive correlation between mean temperature and the average quantity of spices used in cooking.
Spice users may also have been able to store foods for longer before they spoiled, enabling them to tolerate longer periods of scarcity. Observation and imitation of the eating habits of these healthier individuals by others could spread spice use rapidly through a society.
Our survey of recipes from around the world confirmed this hypothesis: we found that countries with higher than average temperatures used more spices.
Indeed, in hot countries nearly every meat-based recipe calls for at least one spice, and most include many spices, whereas in cooler ones, substantial proportions of dishes are prepared without spices, or with just a few
Johnson signed the contract for the Dictionary with the bookseller Robert Dosley at a breakfast held at the Golden Anchor Inn near Holborn Bar on 18 June 1764.