The best books to spice up your shelves

Eleanor Ford Author Of The Nutmeg Trail: Recipes and Stories Along the Ancient Spice Routes
By Eleanor Ford

Who am I?

In my writing, food is a means to explore culture and understand the world. I’ve been described as a ‘culinary detective’. I collect and create eclectic, evocative recipes from around the globe so I can travel from my kitchen when I'm back home in London. The Nutmeg Trail follows my multi-award-winning books, Fire Islands and Samarkand.


I wrote...

The Nutmeg Trail: Recipes and Stories Along the Ancient Spice Routes

By Eleanor Ford,

Book cover of The Nutmeg Trail: Recipes and Stories Along the Ancient Spice Routes

What is my book about?

Recipes and stories explore how centuries of spice trading and cultural diffusion changed the world's cuisine. A unique and enlightening guide to cooking with spice, the book looks at their flavour profiles and how they can be used, combined, and layered - how some bring sweetness, others fragrance, heat, pungency, sourness, or earthiness.

There are 80 spice-infused recipes in this collection following the trails of ancient maritime trade through Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Iran, and the Emirates. Eleanor combines historical research with a travel writer's eye and a cook's nose for a memorable recipe. Interwoven are stories that explore how spices from across the Indian Ocean - the original cradle of spice - have, over time, been adopted into cuisines around the world.

The books I picked & why

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The Spice Route: A History

By John Keay,

Book cover of The Spice Route: A History

Why this book?

With a scholarly eye for detail, Keaye explores the history of the spice routes. The trade is at once mysterious and hard to trace yet also world-encompassing. It started more wars and sparked more discoveries than any other global exchange.  This book elegantly covers over 3,000 years of human history and leaves the reader with much to think about. 

The Spice Route: A History

By John Keay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Spice Route as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An exotic saga with the tang of drama in every voyage, The Spice Route transports the reader from the dawn of history to the ends of the earth The Spice Route is one of history's great anomalies. Shrouded in mystery, it existed long before anyone knew of its extent or alignment. Spices came from lands unseen, possibly uninhabitable, and almost by definition unattainable; that was what made them so desirable. Yet more livelihoods depended on this pungent traffic, more nations participated in it, more wars were fought over it, and more discoveries resulted from it than from any other global…


The Science of Spice: Understand Flavor Connections and Revolutionize Your Cooking

By Stuart Farrimond,

Book cover of The Science of Spice: Understand Flavor Connections and Revolutionize Your Cooking

Why this book?

Farimond offers a unique way of looking at the chemistry behind the ingredients, arranging spices in a periodic table based on their dominant flavour compound. I love the pages comparing flavour profiles of different world cuisines. Curious cooks can learn how to choose, use, and pair spices to bring out their full potency.

The Science of Spice: Understand Flavor Connections and Revolutionize Your Cooking

By Stuart Farrimond,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Science of Spice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Transform your dishes from bland and boring to punchy and flavorsome with this definitive guide to spices.

It's time to spice up your home cooking!

Taking the periodic table of spices as a starting point, this adventurous recipe book explores the science behind the art of making incredible spice blends to help you release the flavor in your dishes. Discover a spice book like no other from TV personality, food scientist and bestselling author, Dr Stuart Farrimond.

Sure to get your tastebuds tingling, you can explore:

- 52 exciting recipes from around the world which showcase each spice blend
-…


Pepper

By Christine McFadden,

Book cover of Pepper

Why this book?

McFadden zooms in on a single spice. She has researched the subject in-depth, exploring the history, botany, and culinary potential of peppercorns and their spicy relatives. Half the book features peppery recipes (do try the fresh green peppercorn pickle) and, for me, the peppercorn tasting notes are a particular pleasure. 

Pepper

By Christine McFadden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pepper as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Nathaniel's Nutmeg: Or, the True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History

By Giles Milton,

Book cover of Nathaniel's Nutmeg: Or, the True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History

Why this book?

Delving into the bloodiest and most tragic period of spice’s past, Milton’s novel reveals the extraordinary link between nutmeg and colonisation. It was the seed from which the British Empire grew. If fiction is your preferred way to explore history – and what a history spice has! – then this is the book for you.

Nathaniel's Nutmeg: Or, the True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History

By Giles Milton,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Nathaniel's Nutmeg as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A true tale of high adventure in the South Seas.

The tiny island of Run is an insignificant speck in the Indonesian archipelago. Just two miles long and half a mile wide, it is remote, tranquil, and, these days, largely ignored.

Yet 370 years ago, Run's harvest of nutmeg (a pound of which yielded a 3,200 percent profit by the time it arrived in England) turned it into the most lucrative of the Spice Islands, precipitating a battle between the all-powerful Dutch East India Company and the British Crown. The outcome of the fighting was one of the most spectacular…


Spice: The History of a Temptation

By Jack Turner,

Book cover of Spice: The History of a Temptation

Why this book?

A compelling exploration by Turner into what made spices so fashionable and so dangerous. “For their sake, fortunes have been made and lost, empires built and destroyed, and new worlds discovered” all to sate human infatuation with these ingredients. I was swept away by Turner’s erudite approach to spice history and his work has been an inspiration to me.

Spice: The History of a Temptation

By Jack Turner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this brilliant, engrossing work, Jack Turner explores an era—from ancient times through the Renaissance—when what we now consider common condiments were valued in gold and blood.

Spices made sour medieval wines palatable, camouflaged the smell of corpses, and served as wedding night aphrodisiacs. Indispensible for cooking, medicine, worship, and the arts of love, they were thought to have magical properties and were so valuable that they were often kept under lock and key. For some, spices represented Paradise, for others, the road to perdition, but they were potent symbols of wealth and power, and the wish to possess them…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in spices, the Age of Discovery, and Indonesia?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about spices, the Age of Discovery, and Indonesia.

Spices Explore 9 books about spices
The Age Of Discovery Explore 10 books about the Age of Discovery
Indonesia Explore 23 books about Indonesia

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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