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Nov 30, 2009 06:19 PM

books about the spice trade

There are many books about the history of the spice trade, and I'm looking for a little advice about which ones I might want to check out. What have you read and would (or would not) recommend? I read quite a bit about food and culture, and have a little bit of background, so I'm looking for something intelligent -- well-written and -researched. Thanks!

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  1. I really enjoyed "Salt: A World History" by Mark Kurlansky - yes, it's about salt and not specific to the spice trade through Asia, but I thought it was fascinating and illuminating and talks about how salt or the lack of it affected all levels of society: politics, slavery, the rise and fall of empires, and of course the different foods of different cultures.

    1. "Spice: The History of a Temptation" by Jack Turner is well regarded.

      1. I have two books by the same author that, coincidentally, I bought at two different bookstores on the same day, in northern Wisconsin.

        "The Story of Spices - The Spices Described", vol. 1, by John W. Parry. I have to confess that I've not read it, but the first half (The Story ....) seems quite comprehensive to me after a quick skimming. Publishedin 1969.

        The other book is "The Spice Handbook", in which he discusses spices in-depth - including information about uses, adulteration, grinding, packing, starch, essential oil, government standards, as well as plant, Family, Nativity and Cultivation, Description, Properties and Grading. This book was published in 1945, and I found it fascinating that the basis of a lot of the book is correspondence he had about the various spices during WWII.

        Parry worked for the National Spice Mills Company,