Spices are rare things, at once familiar and exotic, comforting us in favourite dishes while evoking far-flung countries, Arabian souks, trade winds, colonial conquests and vast fortunes. From anise to zedoary, The Book of Spice introduces us to their properties, both medical and magical, and the fascinating stories that lie behind both kitchen staples and esoteric luxuries. John O'Connell's bite-size chapters combine insights on history and art, religion and medicine, culture and science, richly seasoned with anecdotes and recipes. Discover why Cleopatra bathed in saffron and mare's milk, why wormwood-laced absinthe caused eighteenth-century drinkers to hallucinate and how cloves harvested in remote Indonesian islands found their way into a kitchen in ancient Syria. Almost every kitchen contains a tin of cloves or a stick of cinnamon, almost every dish a pinch of something, whether chilli or cumin. Combining an extraordinary amount of research with a lifelong passion, this is culinary history at its most appetising. The Book of Spice is an invaluable reference and an entertaining read.
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