A brilliant, original history of the spice tradeand the appetites that fueled it.
It was in search of the fabled Spice Islands and their cloves that Magellan charted the first circumnavigation of the globe. Vasco da Gama sailed the dangerous waters around Africa to India on a quest for Christiansand spices. Columbus sought gold and pepper but found the New World. By the time these fifteenth- and sixteenth-century explorers set sail, the aromas of these savory, seductive seeds and powders had tempted the palates and imaginations of Europe for centuries.
Spice: The History of a Temptation is a history of the spice trade told not in the conventional narrative of politics and economics, nor of conquest and colonization, but through the intimate human impulses that inspired and drove it. Here is an exploration of the centuries-old desire for spice in food, in medicine, in magic, in religion, and in sexand of the allure of forbidden fruit lingering in the scents of cinnamon, pepper, ginger, nutmeg, mace, and clove.
We follow spices back through time, through history, myth, archaeology, and literature. We see spices in all their diversity, lauded as love potions and aphrodisiacs, as panaceas and defenses against the plague. We journey from religious rituals in which spices were employed to dispel demons and summon gods to prodigies of gluttony both fantastical and real. We see spices as a luxury for a medieval kings ostentation, as a mummys deodorant, as the last word in haute cuisine.
Through examining the temptations of spice we follow in the trails of the spice seekers leading from the deserts of ancient Syria to thrill-seekers on the Internet. We discover how spice became one of the first and most enduring links between Asia and Europe. We see in the pepper we use so casually the relic of a tradition linking us to the appetites of Rome, Elizabethan England, and the pharaohs. And we capture the pleasure of spice not only at the table but in every part of life.
Spice is a delight to be savored.
The Spice Seekers
The Taste That Launched a Thousand Ships
According to an old Catalan tradition, the news of the New World was formally announced in the Saló del Tinell, the cavernous, barrel-vaulted banquet hall in Barcelona's Barri Gòtic, the city's medieval quarter. And it is largely on tradition we must rely, for aside from a few sparse details the witnesses to the scene had frustratingly little to say, leaving the field free for painters, poets, and Hollywood producers to imagine the moment that marked the watershed, symbolically at least, between medievalism and modernity. They have tended to portray a setting of suitable grandeur, with king and queen presiding over an assembly of everyone who was anyone in the kingdom: counts and dukes weighed down by jewels, ermines, and velvets; mitered bishops; courtiers stiff in their robes of state; serried ranks of pages sweating in livery. Ambassadors and dignitaries from foreign powers look on in astonishment...
Welcome to the glamorous and romantic world of spice. Turner's history is arranged thematically with essays exploring different aspects, such as exploration, love, romance and religion. Although he consciously avoids using sweeping statements such as 'changed the world', he explains that the search for spices sparked a whole complex of activities we have come to take for granted, but which were anything but inevitable.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (228 words).
Useful link: For ages now I've been fighting a seemingly losing battle with the quantity of paper catalogs arriving at our house - firstly, I dislike shopping, and secondly, with the internet, I just don't need them anymore and hate the waste. However, there is one catalog that I will not be canceling, and that's the Penzey's spice catalog, which combines an awesome array of spices for sale with articles about the spices and where they come from, plus many recipes. It makes excellent bathroom reading, has inspired many a delicious meal, and more than once has been the basis for a school project! Penzey's is online at http://penzeys.com/
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