Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices

Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices

Paperback California Studies in Food and Culture

By (author) Andrew Dalby

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  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Format: Paperback | 184 pages
  • Dimensions: 164mm x 234mm x 14mm | 422g
  • Publication date: 31 October 2002
  • Publication City/Country: Berkerley
  • ISBN 10: 0520236742
  • ISBN 13: 9780520236745
  • Sales rank: 722,823

Product description

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.

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Author information

Andrew Dalby is a historian and linguist and has written for numerous food history and classics journals. Among his books are "Empire of Pleasures: Luxury and Indulgence in the Roman World" (2000), "The Classical Cookbook" (with Sally Grainger, 1996), and "Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece" (1996).

Review quote

"Will set you straight on myrrh, frankincense, zedoary--what they are, where they came from, and what the first people who tasted them thought about them."--"Wall Street Journal

Back cover copy

"Delightful and complex. When Dalby blends the spices, the result is unique and irresistible."--Alan Davidson, author of "The Oxford Companion to Food

Table of contents

Preface THE PHOENIX'S NEST Silphium EXPORTS FROM PARADISE Ginger Sugar Sandalwood Balsam of Mecca Cinnamon Tejpat Musk THE SPICE ISLANDS Cloves Nutmeg and mace Cubebs Camphor Gum benzoin THE AROMATIC SHORE Ambergris Aloeswood THE CINNAMON MOUNTAINS Chinese pepper Galanga Rhubarb and licorice Ginseng and star anise THE LAND OF PEPPER Putchuk or costus Spikenard Long pepper Black pepper Turmeric Red sanders Zedoary and zerumbet Amomum and cardamom THE RAREST OF SPICES Gum guggul Asafoetida or hing Frankincense Myrrh CARGOES OF COMPLACENCE Coriander Cumin, caraway, anise, ajowan and nigella Mustard Poppy Mastic Storax Saffron 'I HAVE FOUND CINNAMON!' Uchu, rocoto, and ulupica Pink peppercorns Coca Chocolate Vanilla Chilli Tabasco pepper and Scotch bonnet Canella Balsam of Peru IN QUEST OF SPICERY Notes Source Texts Further Reading Glossary Of Spice Names Index