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Spice: The History of a Temptation (2004)

de Jack Turner

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9641121,681 (3.63)32
"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 sex - and 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 king's ostentation, as a mummy's 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."--BOOK JACKET.… (mais)
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very thoroughly researched - a little dry- compared to say Victoria Findlay's similar book on Color's ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
I wanted to read this book to hear about the romance and adventure of the early spice trade. The idea that a few tiny islands in Indonesia supplied the entire world with something so precious is still hard to fathom. Turner gives a sense of just how otherworldly spices seemed to Europeans when the other end of the supply chain was essentially mythical.

It was also fairly interesting to learn how medical and culinary uses of spices evolved over time, but this section of the book really dragged on. It's only so engaging to hear what the fourth obscure medieval religious figure in a row thought was the correct ratio of ingredients for an incense.

I would also have loved to hear what the native people of Ternate and Tidore made of people coming from the other side of the world and expending huge amounts of resources to steal their native plants, but they don't figure at all in the story. ( )
  NickEdkins | May 27, 2023 |
A more interesting book on spices than I expected, Turner covers the history of spices and its use by humans, and just how important spices have been to world history and exploration.

I especially made a nutmeg infused dinner after reading this. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Jul 17, 2018 |
WOW. As I started selecting the categories that would apply to this work, I realised how much pungent information is contained within its pages. History, exploration, food, alchemy, sex, adventurers, science, medicine, cooking, culinary history, economics, ships, politics, travel, literature--the list is endless, which confirms the thoughts that came to mind as I read it--the amount of information in this volume is absolutely amazing. It is such a compendium of information about spice (and everything related), that it is going on a bibliography I oversee for museum docents who guide in our Asian Civilisations Museum.

Telling stories is integral to being a good museum guide; stories make facts (and artefacts) come alive, and this volume is packed with them. I started making a list and gave up on page 28 of 310.
Here are stories of how spices inspired, were used and misused. How Europeans finally found their way to Asian waters. Why the Dutch East Indies Company was founded (Spain swallowed up Portugal and Holland's easy access to spices was lost). Here I found a description of the elusive nard, an exotic plant I had read of but didn't know what it was used for (ancient perfumes and unguents). Anyone interested in early Portuguese explorers will thoroughly enjoy Turner's spice-focused history (Chapter 1, "The Spice Seekers"). References to the likes of Pliny, Tiberius, Helen of Troy, Ovid, Pope Boniface VIII, 'Margaret of Norway', monks, theologians, kings, buccaneers pepper every page. Story follows story, and the recipes and menus.... Furthermore, the notes and bibliography at the end are worth more than their weight in cinnamon (had we lived in the 1500s). Don't overlook them.

Some readers may feel that there are sections when the author errs a bit too much on the side of some of the writers of recipes he recounts (when cooks were excessively heavy-handed with their spices) and the details can weigh down the narrative at times, but just flip ahead a few pages and you'll find your appetite whetted again. (And I suspect these are exactly the sections I will need to find and read at a later date.) At any rate, this is a spoiled person's complaint -- too rich the broth! -- for this is a wonderful, entertaining (and dare I say it, educational), volume that I was delighted to find on my favourite bookstore's shelves. ( )
1 vote pbjwelch | Jul 25, 2017 |
I do enjoy my spices, but had no idea how all encompassing the history of spice could be. Trade, travel, exploration, religion, medicine, sex and, oh yes, cooking, have all frequently hinged on finding, stealing, growing or fighting over spices. Excellently researched and written, Jack Turner's Spice is very informative. There are a few places that drag, because you can only sit through just so many medieval meals without pepper overwhelming your senses, but overall it makes for a very interesting read. ( )
  varielle | Feb 22, 2013 |
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"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 sex - and 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 king's ostentation, as a mummy's 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."--BOOK JACKET.

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