Cumin, Camels, and Caravans: A Spice Odyssey by Gary Paul Nabhan

By Gary Paul Nabhan

Gary Paul Nabhan takes the reader on a shiny and far-ranging trip throughout time and house during this interesting examine the connection among the spice exchange and culinary imperialism. Drawing on his personal family’s historical past as spice investors, in addition to shuttle narratives, old debts, and his services as an ethnobotanist, Nabhan describes the severe roles that Semitic peoples and wasteland floras had in environment the degree for globalized spice trade.

Traveling alongside 4 admired exchange routes—the Silk highway, the Frankincense path, the Spice course, and the Camino genuine (for chiles and chocolate)—Nabhan follows the caravans of itinerant spice retailers from the frankincense-gathering grounds and historic harbors of the Arabian Peninsula to the port of Zayton at the China Sea to Santa Fe within the southwest usa. His tales, recipes, and linguistic analyses of cultural diffusion routes display the level to which aromatics resembling cumin, cinnamon, saffron, and peppers turned followed world wide as signature constituents of numerous cuisines. Cumin, Camels, and Caravans demonstrates that specific wilderness cultures frequently depicted in consistent conflict—Arabs and Jews—have spent a lot in their historical past taking part within the spice exchange and indicates how a extra virtuous multicultural globalized society can be accomplished within the future.

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Sample text

As I leave the highlands of Jabal Samhan for the port town of Salalah, I take a handful of frankincense beads along with me to burn ritually that night. They are modest in size and sit lightly in my palm. And yet I have heard that they command respectable prices in the souks and tourist shops along the Omani coast of the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, perhaps as high as fifty dollars per kilogram, or twenty to twenty-five times what a harvester might be paid in the desert for the same quantity. I decide to go into a souk to see if this is true.

Green, Aliza. Field Guide to Herbs and Spices. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2006. Hill, Tony. The Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs and Spices. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2004. Katzer, Gernot. html. Accessed May 8, 2013. Sortun, Ana, with Nicole Chaison. Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean. New York: Regan Books, 2006. Caravans Leaving Arabia Felix | 39 taste what looks like a heap of gold dust piled up on a towel before her. I bend down and take a pinch, lick my index finger, and warm to the earthy, peppery, slightly bitter, somehow brilliant flavor that it offers.

How could it not be? Once I approach the dozen or so shops that are constantly sending smoke up toward the heavens and out toward their prospective customers, I could hardly resist lingering there for a while. The shops are small and rather gaudy and glitzy, but they are far more elegant than most spice shops in other Middle Eastern souks. Incense burns while some scratchy recordings of Arabic music play on loudspeakers. I had assumed that one could only purchase frankincense here, but myrrh, sandalwood, and musk are also on sale.

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