INTRODUCTION AND HISTORY:
Indian food and spices have been popular all over the world since ancient times. The Romans imported spices from India as early as 77 C.E. The Arab traders imported spices from India before the beginning of the Common Era. By the middle ages, Indian cuisine and spices became extremely popular all over the world. All major kingdoms in Asia and Europe had active spice trade with India in the middle age. Many battles were also fought at that time especially between the European powers England, France, Portugal, Dutch and Spain to gain access to the spice route to India. Indian spices and condiments were one of the major reasons why the British visited India before colonizing it. Even Christopher Columbus was searching for a sea route to India (to resume the European spice trade with India after the fall of Constantinople) when he accidentally discovered America in 1492.
REASONS FOR POPULARITY OF INDIAN CUISINE:
Indian recipes have been traditionally known for the simple style of cooking where the nutritional value of the food is maintained while enhancing the taste with the use of spices and masalas. The concept of pickles and salads originated from India too. They were served with the main dish and acted as an appetizer for stimulating the taste buds.
The different parts of India had their own local traditions and cultures. The food and recipes of the various regions were quite diverse too. In North India, wheat has been the staple food whereas in Southern and Eastern parts of India, rice is the staple food. The food habits also vary as per the weather conditions, geographical location and major crops of that region. For example, in coastal regions of India, seafood and fish recipes are more popular whereas in central India, vegetarian cuisines are more popular. However, there is hardly a situation when a popular food of any part of India is completely new to another region of India. This is because of the food culture in India where people exchange food with their neighbors and friends especially during festive seasons. This is common in every part of India and has helped in spreading the popularity of various regional dishes in other parts of India.
Festivals and food prepared during festivals have their own significance too. For example in Maharashtra, Makar Sankranti is observed in the month of January. Bajra rotis (pearl millet breads) and sweets made of jaggery and Til (mole) are served during this festival as eating these items during winter is quite beneficial to maintain body temperature. These festivals help in making a situation where no one feels compulsion of eating healthy food as per weather conditions but instead enjoy doing so with the festive activities. The popularity of Indian festivals around the world have also helped in the popularity of Indian food.
Indian medical science known as Ayurveda is known for its easy and natural way of treatment. The base of Ayurveda is healthy Indian food and herbs. The physical and mental fitness exercises Yoga also originated in ancient India. Indian food and cooking has been traditionally drawn from yogic philosophy of cooking and eating. So, with the popularity of Ayurveda, Yoga etc., people all over the world have realized the health benefits of Indian food.
In modern times, Indian expats all over the world have helped in popularizing Indian cuisine. Though Indian cuisine was popular in UK and many other parts of Europe and Middle East since the middle ages but it was mainly due to the Indians settled abroad that they became very popular in North America and the rest of the world. No wonder countries like US, UK, Canada and Australia have several restaurants and hotels serving only Indian food.
With the massive growth of cable television in the last few decades, food shows are coming up on TV channels all over the world. Indian recipes are part of the diverse recipes taught in those shows. Thus, cable television had an important role too in increasing the popularity of Indian cuisine.