Spice: The History of Temptation by Jack Turner - review by Christopher Ondaatje

Christopher Ondaatje

The Lure of the Peppercorn

Spice: The History of Temptation


HarperCollins 409pp £25 order from our bookshop

COLUMBUS FOUND AMERICA, Magellan circumnavigated the globe, and Vasco da Gama sailed around Mica to India. These three adventurers were the standard-bearers for the age of discovery, but were in fact driven not so much by a passion for exploration as by the potential rewards for satisfyng Europe's all-consuming hunger for spice. Jack Turner's history of the spice race, and of the tastes and appetites that ignited it, is a tour de force, and it gives a full account of the exploits of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries' explorers.

What was the true lure of spice? Apart from the fact that medieval Europeans needed enormous quantities of pepper, ginger and cinnamon to disguise the smell and taste of the salty, rotting meat they ate, spices have, since antiquity, had reputations as aphrodisiacs. The very word 'spice' conjures up, in

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

A Mirror - Westend

Follow Literary Review on Twitter