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Posted June 11, 2013
Pepper: A History of the World¿s Most Influential Spice by M
Pepper: A History of the World’s Most Influential Spice by Marjorie Shaffer is a non-fiction book tracing history through the trade of black pepper. Ms. Shaffer is a business reporter and science writer.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
This is an interesting book about this culinary delight. The book journeys through the ages and the competition between the Dutch, English and Portuguese merchants. A nod towards the end of the book to 19th Century American pepper traders ties up the history nicely.
The most interesting part of the book was the use of pepper for medicinal purposes. I am not a big believer in medication, not that I have anything against taking medication, I just think we take too much of it and without any precautions. When needed to I will take medication but I don’t want to be a guinea pig for big-pharma nor do I want to introduce harmful chemicals to my body instead of natural alternatives. Pepper, it seems, has been used as almost a “cure all” for many diseases, over the years that knowledge was lost but now scientists are starting to discover that maybe there is something to it after all.
Pepper, at the time, was a very valuable commodity, more than gold or silver. In 1498, Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama managed to get around the Cape of Good Hope and opened up the sear routes to China and India. Unknowingly, de Gama made it possible for the super-powers at the time to establish colonies.
Sea fairing was a dangerous occupation and the book doesn’t mince words. The history of this pungent spice is riddled with pirates, wealth and greed. Characters of all types grace the pages of history, from William Dampier, an English pirate who protested the treatment of natives, to Jan Pieterszoon Coen, a brutal governor.
Those looking for recipes or culinary uses for black pepper are sure to be disappointed, those looking for a frank, honest look at history of trade and empire building. The author uses first-person accounts from journals and ship logs to make interesting points and bring history to life.