Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pepper: A history of the world's most influential spice by Marjorie Shaffer

How often do we think of where the ingredients in our food come from.  Not often for most of us. Do we ever give much thought to the history of our food?  Probably even less so.  A new book in the non-fiction section, Pepper: A history of the world’s most influential spice by Marjorie Shaffer, is a fascinating look at the history of one of our most common household spices.

Pepper is a very fussy plant – it grows only in the tropical soil of India.  This made it rare and expensive: and many throughout history have risked their lives in pursuit of the profits that could be made from it.  The pepper trade began long before explorers sought routes through North and South America.  The ancient Romans and Greeks had storehouses where their spices were kept, and as various conquerors plundered and regimes changed, the taste for pepper, and its power, grew.  Shaffer explores the contribution of the English, Dutch, and Portuguese and the role of the Jesuit missionaries in the pepper trade.  Pepper was responsible for the first American intervention in Southeast Asia in the mid nineteenth century.

This spicy book is well researched, and offers a look at history as it has not been seen before.

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