Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Book Review: The Book of Spice

The Book of Spice: From Anise to Zedoary
John O'Connell

The Book of Spice is similar in spirit to Lingo. That is: it's a quick tour d'epicerie jaunt around the culinary back streets. It provides a good capsule overview--history, uses, legends, science, care, feeding, etc.--for a large number of entries. It's not deep, but it's entertaining. It shouldn't be read on an empty stomach. It makes me curious about vast swathes of ethic cuisine of which I know little to nothing. (Also, it would be of some practical use as a reference book.)

One caveat: John O'Connell is writing from and for a British-Isles perspective. He spends an extraordinary number of words on curry, while short-changing the New World. Aside from a good section on the chili pepper, there's virtually nothing about Mexican or other Latino cuisines. There's even less about (for example) barbeque, or Cajun, or Creole. On the other hand, some of those curry ideas sound pretty enticing.

Spice: The History of a Temptation is a deeper look at the use, sociology, and economics of the spices and the trade.

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