The Spice Route: from Indonesia to our plates

Indonesia effortlessly evokes exoticism, South-east Asia, its cultures and its spices. Since ancient times, spices have been transported to Europe and used in our dishes throughout the centuries. This is the story of the journey of spices from Asia to our corner of the world, and their use – which has varied over the centuries – as recounted by the "The Spice Route. From Indonesia to our plates” exhibition.

“Europalia Indonesia” is an exceptional opportunity to discover the fabulous history of spices. Objects of fascination for Europeans since ancient Greco-Roman times, they were first used as ingredients in perfumes or medicines, before being used in the haute cuisine of Hellenistic Greece. Rome made decadent use of them, while elites at the end of the Middle Ages were struck by a veritable "spice madness". Abandoned by the classic French cuisine that was established during the reign of Louis XIV, they are now back in favour thanks to globalisation, migratory flows and the fashionable nature of the exotic.

A commodity so expensive and prestigious could only inspire covetousness. Braving great dangers, Roman merchants went directly to India to get them starting from the 1st century BC. Italian cities built their fortunes on merchant traffic from the eleventh century onwards, while the Portuguese rediscovered the route from India at the end of the fourteenth century. They hoped to establish a monopoly, which the Dutch and the British disputed in a merciless war. Traditionally, spices have excited taste buds as well as commercial appetites. This is the fabulous history that you are invited to discover in the “The Spice Route. From Indonesia to our plates” exhibition.