Synopses & Reviews
Filled with anecdotes and fascinating information, "a spicy read indeed." (Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed the World)
The perfect companion to Mark Kurlansky's Salt: A World History, Pepper illuminates the rich history of pepper for a popular audience. Vivid and entertaining, it describes the part pepper played in bringing the Europeans, and later the Americans, to Asia and details the fascinating encounters they had there. As Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds, said, "After reading Marjorie Shaffer's Pepper, you'll reconsider the significance of that grinder or shaker on your dining room table. The pursuit of this wizened berry with the bite changed history in ways you've never dreamed, involving extraordinary voyages, international trade, exotic locales, exploitation, brutality, disease, extinctions, and rebellions, and featuring a set of remarkable characters."
From the abundance of wildlife on the islands of the Indian Ocean, which the Europeans used as stepping stones to India and the East Indies, to colorful accounts of the sultan of Banda Aceh entertaining his European visitors with great banquets and elephant fights, this fascinating book reveals the often surprising story behind one of mankind's most common spices.
"Shaffer's book is less comprehensive food history than a chronicle of pepper's centuries as valued commodity from imperial Rome to present day. Its trade began in the classical era, continued through the Middle Ages, and exploded during the era of European imperialistic exploration and nationalist rivalry. Players included Asian, British, Iberian, and Continental crown and capital powers. The game ensnared proto-entrepreneurial and corporate-raider types such as explorer Vasco da Gama and colonial operator Sir Stamford Raffles. Erstwhile private agencies and startups like the Jesuits and the U.S. even got sucked into the business. Shaffer makes well-intentioned use of the records of the story's many colorful figures, including future saints, obscure seamen, and gender-bending stowaways, and at the center is the epic competition between two monolithic archrivals, the British and Dutch East India Companies. From humble beginnings, through expansion and market dominance, and into eventual decline, their fiercely capitalistic, sometimes violent competition provides the book's primary focus. A historian's more than a gastronome's book, its circling initially seems apropos, but becomes repetitious despite the decor of sidebars and maps. The result is a well-documented if scattered companion to Mark Kurlansky's Salt." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“This is more than the story of a spice…Get ready for a sweeping ride through history."
—David Oshinsky, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Polio: An American Story "After reading Marjorie Shaffer's Pepper, you'll reconsider the significance of that grinder or shaker on your dining room table."
—Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World "Pepper was once as critical a commodity as oil. Marjorie Shaffer weaves a delightful history of the Indian Ocean and the South Seas."
—Robert D. Kaplan, author of Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power
“A well-documented companion to Mark Kurlanskys Salt.”
Mark Kurlanskys smash hit Salt exposed the fascinating history of this everyday staple to countless readers around the world. Now, in this perfect companion to Kurlanskys book, Marjorie Shaffer illuminates the rich history of pepper for a popular audience.
Vivid and entertaining, this sweeping tale of adventure and intrigue describes the essential role that pepper played in bringing both Americans and Europeans to Asia. From the abundance of wildlife on the islands of the Indian Ocean to colorful accounts of sultans entertaining their European visitors, this fascinating book reveals the often surprising story behind one of mankind's most common spices.
In this definitively researched and compelling story, Pepper: A History of the World's Most Influential Spice, Shaffer combines history, customs, and food lore to deliver a mesmerizing tale that every foodie will have to own.
About the Author
MARJORIE SHAFFER has written for The New York Times, The Financial Times, and Popular Science magazine. She was a business reporter for Reuters and a former Knight science journalism fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A graduate of Brown University, she received a Master of Science degree in biology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is currently a science writer and editor at New York University School of Medicine. She lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
One: Meet the Pipers 1
Two: The King of Spices 17
Three: Drugs and Souls 35
Four: Golden Elephants 69
Five: The British Invade 101
Six: The Dutch Terror 139
Seven: U.S. Pepper Fortunes 169
Eight: An Infinite Number of Seals 199
Nine: Medicinal Pepper 214 Epilogue 225
Selected Bibliography 277