by Andrew Dalby
Spices and aromatics are woven into human history. Since antiquity they have taken pride of place in the markets of the world for their irresistible contribution to food, drink, health, perfume, sex, religion, magic, and ritual. Hunger for spices lies behind some of the great explorations and has led to wealth, conquest, and even genocide.
Aromatics are among the earliest commodities of prehistoric trade, and evidence of spices and perfumed oils has been found at numerous archaeological sites. Interest in their application to diet and pharmaceutics, expressed by classical writers and developed by medieval Islam, has continued in many traditional societies, and modern medicine has begun to agree.
It was in search of Eastern spices and drugs that the Portuguese opened up the sea route to India and the East Indies. Columbus sailed westward in search of another route to the Indies and discovered a New World with aromatics of its own. Colonial powers fought, enslaved, and killed to control this rich trade.
Dangerous Tastes offers a fresh perspective on these exotic substances and the roles they have played over the centuries. Dalby shows how each region became part of a worldwide network of trade-with local consequences ranging from disaster to triumph.
-University of California Press
University of California Press, 2000, 184 pages, dimensions, hardcover
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