Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices

Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices Details

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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Title:Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780520236745
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    Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices Reviews

  • Ram Kaushik

    Heart-breaking to rate a book from which I learned quite a bit at two starts but...this was frustratingly hard to plough through. Still probably worth a quick scan for connoisseurs of food history.Ane...

  • Debbie

    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...

  • Deborah Ideiosepius

    Overall I found this to be a gem of a book it is basically the story of the different spices known in antiquity and the medieval ages. The amount of information in the book is vast as it takes you on ...

  • Ross Wilkins

    Entertaining, somewhat romantic journey through the ups and downs of the global spice trade. I feel that Dalby's work is exceptional given what small fragments of history he has to work with and the l...

  • Douglas

    I didn't get very far into this book. It is an excellent text book for the historian, but it was too focused on old world locations and a bit of a dry read. I was hoping it would be more focused on th...

  • Ashani  Hettige

    This book was an enthralling read.Being a Sri Lankan(Sri Lanka is written all over this book,which I loved so much !) and as a frequent spice maker(and also a food blogger too), I tend to study about ...

  • Shannon Keys

    An interesting overview of the history of Spices through Antiquity, and the medieval/Rennisance eras. The boom is a bit dry, hence the long time I reading. Additionally the last 30 or so pages are App...

  • Michelle

    This is how non-fiction should be written! A unique melange of history, culture and culinary arts. It was hard to find, but totally worth the effort. I'll never look at ginger (or anything else in my ...

  • Cerise

    Some of the actual history of the spices and spice trade are fascinating but often just as the story is getting interesting it just STOPS. now a new paragraph and a new spice. it's very choppy, more l...

  • dejah_thoris

    Definitely the best of his books if you're looking for the stories behind specific spices as that's how it's organized. Not many new facts (for me at least) but lots of lovely images and good short se...