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Comment: Paperback has some wear, bending/folding and notes/underlining. First page has ex-owner's info. Readable. 2000
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Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices Paperback – October 7, 2002


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Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices + Eating Mud Crabs in Kandahar: Stories of Food during Wartime by the World's Leading Correspondents (California Studies in Food and Culture) + Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors
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Product Details

  • Series: California Studies in Food and Culture (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1st edition (October 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520236742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520236745
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,771,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Covers a great deal of ground geographically as well as historically." -- Associated Press

"[Y]ou will never again regard cocoa as just that yummy milk flavoring." -- Pasadena Star-News --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

"Delightful and complex. When Dalby blends the spices, the result is unique and irresistible."—Alan Davidson, author of The Oxford Companion to Food

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Debbie TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is on food history. Despite the description given on the back cover, the focus is more on studying the spice than on the history of people's efforts to get the spice. I strongly suspect that people who enjoy spices and who already have a working knowledge of them in the present will find this book more interesting than those who only know a little about them. I was able to best follow and understand the information on the spices I was most familiar with (like ginger and cinnamon) than the ones I'd never used before or which are no longer available.

Each spice has a page or two written about it. Included are quotes from ancient sources which mention the spice, descriptions of the plant the spice is from and how the spice is made, information on where the spice originally came from and its spread (where it came to be grown), how the spice was used, which cultures used it, the trade routes and who traded it (if known), the value of the spice (if known), and ancient recipes using the spice. There were also brief sections describing the conflicts between nations as they tried to cheaply acquire certain spices.

I would have appreciated maps showing where the spice was grown and the ancient trade routes used to get it, but none were included. However, the author did give enough of a description that I could probably work it out on my own if I spent some time at it.

While the information was interesting and detailed, it was conveyed in a very dry way, like a textbook. In fact, I think this book would have been more accurately titled The Encyclopedia of Spices. However, it's clear that the author extensively researched the topic. This book probably contains the most accurate information known about spices, so this is the book to read if you're doing research on them.
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59 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Anne Claessens on February 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
Clearly, the author didn't have those who's interest is in the culinary use of spices in mind as an audience. One of my degrees is in history, I'm used to sorting through dry tomes for nuggets of fact, but didn't find anything useful here. May I suggest that before taking it on, the reader will want to obtain an excellent historical atlas, and a detailed botanical guide, it's the only hope one has of following along. My interest is in recreation of historically accurate recipes, but found myself sadly disappointed by the lack of reference to flavors, and a great many spices popular in medieval Europe missing entirely.
The author is clearly fascinated by ancient documents for their own sakes, and a linguist. Unfortunately for me, I'm interested in spices for their own sakes. This is scholarly enough that by page 25 I was convinced I was reading a doctoral dissertation, by page 35, I was questioning the editor's judgement. This is a stunningly dull book. Of the 200 or 300 culinary reference books I've purchased over the past 10 years, this is ONLY disappointment. It is quite functional as an insomnia cure, however.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Lilinah on September 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book was a pleasure and a joy to read. I couldn't put it down. I even find myself rereading it, because the information is so much fun.

Besides describing the history of spicees, Dalby quotes from many ancient sources, showing what people believed in the old days about spices: how they came to be, where they grew, how they were harvested. Some tales are truly astonishing, but that's no surprise, since for many centuries, spice merchants kept the true sources a closely held secret.

While not comprehensive, the book covers all the major spices and many more unusual ones. I recommend this book to all my friends who are interested in the history of spices and the spice trade.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful By C. J. Thompson on May 1, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Foxwold (his review is above mine), gave no stars to this book but I give it one. Ultimately, I think Foxwold is right that the author doesn't appear to really be an enthusiast about the history of spices.

The book is not a comprehensive view of the subject by any means, but I would still enjoy the it as a whole had it mitigated against the normal 'dry' result of reference works by being an interesting read. Dalby doesn't manage to do this at all... The style of writing is not nicely flowing and the way in which the information is organized is sterile and uninteresting. I gave him one star because I learned a FEW interesting things while reading it but ... if I am not looking at an encyclopedia or a reference text, then I want my reading material to be stimulating too.
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