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Posted August 26, 2004
A not so tempting history of spices
Jack Turner's book has been showered with unusual advance praise ('a brilliant, original history of the spice trade'), but its content is of rather mixed quality. The Introduction alone contains numerous errors, beginning with a reference to cloves in Syria 3,700 years (briefly published 20 years ago, but never substantiated) and an incorrect description of a nutmeg (the author failed to notice that nutmeg is not 'surrounded' by the mace, but sits inside a shell). For all the hard work the author put into this, too often he falls for the spectacular and exaggerated in a 'sex-sells' history of spices. While it makes for entertaining reading, it cannot be relied on as a balanced or scholarly piece of work. In contrast, I would recommend Andrew Dalby's 'Dangerous Tastes - The history of spices' - maybe a trifle less thrilling, but written with far greater competence.
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