Jack Turner was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1968. He received his B.A. in Classical Studies from Melbourne University and his Ph.D. in International Relations from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar and MacArthur Foundation Junior Research Fellow. He wrote his first book Spice, in 2004, in Georgia. He is also the host of the The Science channel, documentary series, What the Ancients Knew. He has worked as a cook, a farmhand, a photographer, and travelled extensively in Britain, Spain, Indochina, South America, Syria, Southern Africa and Australia. He can speak and/or read seven languages. He now lives with his wife, Helena and their children in Geneva, Switzerland
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A Conversation with Jack Turner
In the preface of your book, you recall a primary school lesson about the
role of spices in the "Age of Discovery." Have you always been interested in
spices? What inspired you to write a book about their history?
My teacher's remark undoubtedly stuck in the mind, but I'm not sure if there was a single "eureka" moment so much as a gradual snowballing of interest. I have found spices fascinating as far back as I can remember, since the time I was a little kid and my mum prepared marvelous spicy kormas, chutneys and curries (she is a superb cook, so maybe she should take the credit). Spices only became more fascinating as they cropped up all over the place in references I came across at random. At university, where I read Greek and Latin, they appeared in the most unexpected places: a reference to cassia in a poem by Sappho written in the 6th century BC; a Roman poet's sarcastic remarks about pepper. Reading the life of the Venerable Bede I was struck by a reference to pepper in Dark Age England. My early interest was mainly in the logistics of the matter: How on earth did they get it? The decision to pursue the subject further was, I suppose, essentially the ...
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