Spices: A Global History
Though his subject is storied and complex, this workmanlike treatment from education and media writer Czarra is about as satisfying as Oliver Twist's gruel. Emphasizing facts and logistics at the expense of drama, Czarra offers a chronological study of global journeys taken by spices like cardamom, cinnamon and chili peppers. The result is more like a textbook than a culinary study; Czarra gets all the dates in but breezes by any number of human interest stories that could have made for much more compelling reading. While details regarding chili pepper use by Native Americans in 7,000 BC and ancient spice routes are interesting, far more instresting are asides on spice-based treatments used to cure Europeans' maladies and the incredible lore of little-known Chinese explorer Zheng He. Combined with a flat voice and rote delivery, this is a bland take on a subject that should be anything but. 40 color plates.