The scent of oregano immediately conjures the comforts of Italian food, curry is synonymous with Indian flavor, and the fire of chili peppers ignites the cuisine of Latin America. Spices are often the overlooked essentials that define our greatest eating experiences. In this global history of spices, Fred Czarra tracks the path of these fundamental ingredients from the trade routes of the ancient world to the McCormick’s brand’s contemporary domination of the global spice market.
Focusing on the five premier spices—black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and chili pepper—while also relating the story of many others along the way, Czarra describes how spices have been used in cooking throughout history and how their spread has influenced regional cuisines around the world. Chili peppers, for example, migrated west from the Americas with European sailors and spread rapidly in the Philippines and then to India and the rest of Asia, where the spice quickly became essential to local cuisines. The chili pepper also traveled west from India to Hungary, where it eventually became the national spice—paprika.
Mixing a wide range of spice fact with fascinating spice fable—such as giant birds building nests of cinnamon—Czarra details how the spice trade opened up the first age of globalization, prompting a cross-cultural exchange of culinary technique and tradition. This savory spice history will enliven any dinner table conversation—and give that meal an unforgettable dash of something extra.