Spice by Jack Turner
The History of a Temptation

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Synopsis

A brilliant, original history of the spice trade—and 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 Christians—and 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 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.

Spice is a delight to be savored.
 

About Jack Turner

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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 lives with his wife, Helena, and their son in Geneva. This is his first book.
 
Published December 10, 2008 by Vintage. 384 pages
Genres: History, Cooking, Business & Economics, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Spice

Kirkus Reviews

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(Wine needed spicing, though.) Sundry spices were prescribed, like diet supplements today, to cure illnesses resulting from imbalances of the four humors.

Aug 17 2004 | Read Full Review of Spice: The History of a Tempt...

The New York Times

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This allows him not just to trace the biological evolution of Piper nigrum and the changing manifests of royal pantries but to jump from continent to continent, century to century, and explore the bigger picture: how a West that once saw spices as the product of a literal and geographic Eden matu...

Dec 19 2004 | Read Full Review of Spice: The History of a Tempt...

The Guardian

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Spice: The History of a Temptation by Jack Turner 409pp, HarperCollins, £25 In 1444, John Hopton, a small gentleman of Suffolk, sent his steward to Norwich to buy supplies for the winter.

Aug 28 2004 | Read Full Review of Spice: The History of a Tempt...

Publishers Weekly

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He has perhaps a little too much fun listing the ridiculous uses of spices in medieval medicine—since, as he notes in a few sparse asides, some spices do indeed have medicinal effects—and fails to get into the real experience of the people.

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BC Books

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Turner writes: Such concrete evidence confirms a fact that many Roman writers mention but that in the absence of physical evidence seemed barely credible: that before the time of Christ, a traffic in spices stretched across the Indian Ocean, from far beyond the easternmost reaches of imperial p...

Sep 13 2005 | Read Full Review of Spice: The History of a Tempt...

Bookmarks Magazine

ISBN: 0375407219 "Indeed, one of the threads of Spice is the long-running tension in Christian Europe between spice as the fragrance of the saints and spice as a (real or imagined) aphrodisiac.

Oct 08 2007 | Read Full Review of Spice: The History of a Tempt...

Bending the Bookshelf

That's not a complaint - the portrayal of sex fits the tone and setting perfectly - just an observation.

Feb 03 2011 | Read Full Review of Spice: The History of a Tempt...

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