Maybe you've heard that the word 'salary' comes from Roman soldiers being paid in salt. That's seems like a fuzzy bit of history, and no one actually knows with certainty how early Roman soldiers were paid, but at some point, they were paid with coinage -- or perhaps with some other kind of allowance to purchase salt. Luckily, most people don't get paid in spices anymore, but there are a few food items that are expensive enough that they could be used as currency. (And if you want to really get off the grid, you might want to know about how much it'll cost to really make everything yourself from scratch.)
- Saffron, by weight, is probably the most expensive spice you'll ever consume. It takes about 85,000-150,000 flowers (just the dried stigmas) to produce 1 kilogram of the spice. About 80-90% (or more?) of the world's supply is grown in Iran, and the industry and enthusiasts may start DNA fingerprinting to crack down on fake or diluted saffron. [url]
- If you want to spend a lot of money on a sandwich, you could order one with foie gras or truffles... or you could make one from scratch yourself. It'll only take you 6 months and about $1,500 to grow all the vegetables -- including the wheat to make bread -- and to raise and slaughter your own chicken. (Or spend a lot more and order lab-grown meat if you don't like killing animals.) [url]
- So you could grow your own saffron, if you really wanted to. When you get good at it, you can probably pick about a thousand flowers an hour, but it'll still take a few more hours to separate out the stigmas and dry them. Not quite a Chia Pet hobby. [url]
- If you want to try something exotic, cook a peacock recipe from 1612. Impress your 17th century spice baron friends, and remember that people used to risk their lives for a few valuable spices. [url]
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