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Download Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices epub

by Andrew Dalby

Spices and aromatics―the powerful, pleasurable, sensual ingredients used in foods, drinks, scented oils, perfumes, cosmetics, and drugs―have long been some of the most sought-after substances in the course of human history. In various forms, spices have served as appetizers, digestives, antiseptics, therapeutics, tonics, and aphrodisiacs. Dangerous Tastes explores the captivating history of spices and aromatics: the fascination that they have aroused in us, and the roads and seaways by which trade in spices has gradually grown. Andrew Dalby, who has gathered information from sources in many languages, explores each spice, interweaving its general history with the story of its discovery and various uses. Dalby concentrates on traditional spices that are still part of world trade: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pepper, saffron, and chili. He also discusses aromatics that are now little used in food but still belong to the spice trade and to traditional medicine: frankincense, myrrh, aloes-wood, balsam of Mecca. In addition, Dalby considers spices that were once important but that now are almost forgotten: long pepper, cubebs, grains of Paradise. Dangerous Tastes relates how the Aztecs, who enjoyed drinking hot chocolate flavored with chili and vanilla, sometimes added annatto (a red dye) to the drink. This not only contributed to the flavor but colored the drinker's mouth red, a reminder that drinking cacao was, in Aztec thought, parallel with drinking blood. In the section on ambergris, Dalby tells how different cultures explained the origin of this substance: Arabs and Persians variously thought of it as solidified sea spray, a resin that sprung from the depths of the sea, or a fungus that grows on the sea bed as truffles grow on the roots of trees. Some Chinese believed it was the spittle of sleeping dragons. Dalby has assembled a wealth of absorbing information into a fertile human history that spreads outward with the expansion of human knowledge of spices worldwide.
Download Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices epub
ISBN: 0520236742
ISBN13: 978-0520236745
Category: Cookbooks
Subcategory: Cooking by Ingredient
Author: Andrew Dalby
Language: English
Publisher: University of California Press; 1st edition (October 7, 2002)
Pages: 184 pages
ePUB size: 1790 kb
FB2 size: 1323 kb
Rating: 4.6
Votes: 241
Other Formats: mbr azw lrf lrf

Dalby does a great job of discussing spices, both common and obscure. He introduced several spices of antiquity that I'd never heard of before his book. His writing is clear, though one can detect the English writing style. His sourcing is first rate, and his interpretations are backed up with evidence, not just opinion.

It is a short book, but definitely not a quick read - this book is information dense. I read it as a break from my daily technical reading and my regular science fiction/fantasy or military history fare - "Dangerous Tastes" was very compelling.

Who knew that spices had contributed so much to warfare?

And some of the more obscure spices - off to an Indian market to see if I can find them.



Ralph S. Hoefelmeyer
Foxwold (his review is above mine), gave no stars to this book but I give it one. Ultimately, I think Foxwold is right that the author doesn't appear to really be an enthusiast about the history of spices.

The book is not a comprehensive view of the subject by any means, but I would still enjoy the it as a whole had it mitigated against the normal 'dry' result of reference works by being an interesting read. Dalby doesn't manage to do this at all... The style of writing is not nicely flowing and the way in which the information is organized is sterile and uninteresting. I gave him one star because I learned a FEW interesting things while reading it but ... if I am not looking at an encyclopedia or a reference text, then I want my reading material to be stimulating too.
This book is on food history. Despite the description given on the back cover, the focus is more on studying the spice than on the history of people's efforts to get the spice. I strongly suspect that people who enjoy spices and who already have a working knowledge of them in the present will find this book more interesting than those who only know a little about them. I was able to best follow and understand the information on the spices I was most familiar with (like ginger and cinnamon) than the ones I'd never used before or which are no longer available.

Each spice has a page or two written about it. Included are quotes from ancient sources which mention the spice, descriptions of the plant the spice is from and how the spice is made, information on where the spice originally came from and its spread (where it came to be grown), how the spice was used, which cultures used it, the trade routes and who traded it (if known), the value of the spice (if known), and ancient recipes using the spice. There were also brief sections describing the conflicts between nations as they tried to cheaply acquire certain spices.

I would have appreciated maps showing where the spice was grown and the ancient trade routes used to get it, but none were included. However, the author did give enough of a description that I could probably work it out on my own if I spent some time at it.

While the information was interesting and detailed, it was conveyed in a very dry way, like a textbook. In fact, I think this book would have been more accurately titled The Encyclopedia of Spices. However, it's clear that the author extensively researched the topic. This book probably contains the most accurate information known about spices, so this is the book to read if you're doing research on them.
Very Old Chap
My first impression from the title when I picked up the book was that it would illustrate the long and exhaustive journey of the people who embarked to find or accidentally discovered spices throughout history. Personally, I think that the title was a bit misleading. The book is more about a danger to spices than dangerous taste. For example, in the first chapter named “The Phoenix’s Nest”, silphium is said to be the first herb on earth that was eradicated by man in the consequence of economic interest. The book focuses more on the studying of spice rather than the history of and human’s efforts to obtain these spices and the danger of claiming them. Each spice is written in one or two pages with quotes from ancient sources, descriptions of the plant the spice came from, how the spice is made and used, the trade routes and who traded it, and the value of the spice. Additionally, there were brief sections describing the conflicts between nations that tried to acquire these spices for a cheaper price.

The information was conveyed in great details, similar style to that of a textbook or an Encyclopedia. Readers can see that Dalby is fascinated with ancient documents and linguistic detective work, which was quite impressive and intriguing, that led to the discovery and understanding of origins of many spices. Although this is a short book, it is not a quick read as the content is dense and somewhat technical. In order to fully follow the trails of spices according to Dalby’s narratives, one would need to either have extensive knowledge on ancient history and geography or would need to pick up a historical atlas and a detailed botanical guide. This book could be used as an additional resource for students and academics alike whose goal is to conduct research on the history of spices with an emphasis on linguistic.

The history of spices, as told in this book, is a story of globalization. According to Business Dictionary, globalization is “The worldwide movement toward economic, financial, trade, and communications integration. Globalization implies the opening of local and nationalistic perspectives to a broader outlook of an interconnected and interdependent world with free transfer of capital, goods, and services across national frontiers”. The trading of spices might just be one of history’s first evidence of globalization. Many routes that were originally used for the trading of spices cross national borders as well as continents. Various communication efforts, be it through sending letters or a country’s general to conquest a certain spice, were employed in order obtain a spice, or to learn the way of making a spice grow in one’s region. Spices were and have been playing an important role in the understanding of relation between food and culture, as well as economical contribute of a nation. After all, the trading of spice requires humans, their ingenuity, their intelligence, and their creativities. Our appreciation and enjoyment for various types of spices available both online and offline would not be possible without the movement and efforts of countless human involvement worldwide.