The Taster Magazine Daily Update: Spice History Book
IT IS an astonishing achievement for a collection of twigs, bits of bark, seeds, kernels and miscellaneous other vegetal flotsam, that if the natural world had not rendered up certain spices to tickle our palates, human experience would not be what it is today. Here’s an excellent book:
Available from Reaktion Books. They have a wide range of other food history titles, including Pie, Puddings and Pancakes (that’s just under “P”). If you know someone who is a chocoholic, mad about doughnuts or incapable of passing by a Pie Shop, there’s a good chance of finding their perfect birthday present here. (The Taster is hoping against hope for a copy of the Cheese history.)
In Spices, the author, Fred Czarra, mentions several myths about spices — some of which might have been encouraged, or even deliberately created, by spice merchants, to make their wares seem even more rich and strange. Cinnamon was supposedly collected by Arabian birds to form their nests; cloves were grown in a single secret valley and could only be obtained by haggling with genies. On a less fanciful note, Czarra writes easily and clearly about the spice trade, its impact on the people who produced spices and those who transported and consumed them. Did you know that, as well as the Silk Route, there was a Clove Route? Or that people wrote poetry to pepper? Which, we were interested to learn, grows as berries on a vine, like grapes. (The Taster is not quite sure how he reached his present position in life without knowing this. But he didn’t.)
History can be approached from many angles. Art lovers, for example, could hardly understand its history without picking up an awful lot of sociopolitical knowledge on the way. But of all foods, spices may well have the best claim to shed light on our past history and present placement. Alcohol and sugar are contenders, and maybe GM food will be in future — but Spices are still the only foodstuffs to have had an entire collection of Islands named after them.
Still having fun finding favourite foodie vids for our YouTube channel. Try this:
With carrots and cumin. Roasted. Might make some tomorrow, then reheat on Sunday. Roasted carrots are one of those dishes that are all the better for being left in the fridge overnight.
Have a great Friday,
(The Man From S.E.O. wants us to write this: Spice History Book. Spice History Book. Spice History Book. When shall we ever be set free???)