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Friday, July 26, 2013


PEPPER; a history of the world's most influential spice (St.
Martin's Press, 2013, 302 pages, ISBN 978-0-312-56989-1, $26.99 US hard
covers) is by Marjorie Shaffer, a business and science writer currently
at New York University School of Medicine. She's crafted details about
what is arguably the most important of the taste spices: black pepper.
It's not a thorough history of European pepper trading in Asia, but it
does examine why – and how – our forebears wanted a single product. As
such, it is also the business history of the trading routes and
regions. And there are also some pages on the US pepper fortunes. The
colour section is loaded with visuals of plants, plantations, older
woodcuts, and early drawings. She's got maps of the Indian Ocean,
India, Malaysia and Indonesia so that readers can track the trade
routes. There are copious end notes, a well-researched bibliography,
and a workable index. But no recipes.
Audience and level of use: culinary historians, collectors of food
history books, libraries.
Some interesting or unusual facts: pepper routes were full of misery
and death for Europeans: traveling thousands of miles in unsafe ships,
too light anchors, many sinkings, and disease.
The downside to this book: I would have liked a few more coloured
The upside to this book: a good popular read on a valuable subject.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.

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