Cumin, Camels, and Caravans: A Spice Odyssey

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Univ of California Press, Apr 7, 2014 - Cooking - 332 pages
Gary Paul Nabhan takes the reader on a vivid and far-ranging journey across time and space in this fascinating look at the relationship between the spice trade and culinary imperialism. Drawing on his own family’s history as spice traders, as well as travel narratives, historical accounts, and his expertise as an ethnobotanist, Nabhan describes the critical roles that Semitic peoples and desert floras had in setting the stage for globalized spice trade.

Traveling along four prominent trade routes—the Silk Road, the Frankincense Trail, the Spice Route, and the Camino Real (for chiles and chocolate)—Nabhan follows the caravans of itinerant spice merchants from the frankincense-gathering grounds and ancient harbors of the Arabian Peninsula to the port of Zayton on the China Sea to Santa Fe in the southwest United States. His stories, recipes, and linguistic analyses of cultural diffusion routes reveal the extent to which aromatics such as cumin, cinnamon, saffron, and peppers became adopted worldwide as signature ingredients of diverse cuisines. Cumin, Camels, and Caravans demonstrates that two particular desert cultures often depicted in constant conflict—Arabs and Jews—have spent much of their history collaborating in the spice trade and suggests how a more virtuous multicultural globalized society may be achieved in the future.


 

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User Review  - quondame - LibraryThing

There is a lot of interesting anecdotes about spices, their history, and uses, but this is not at all a rigorous study, but a very idiosyncratic view which excludes about the same number of facts as it includes and includes complete speculation as fact. Read full review

Contents

The Origin of Species
1
1 Aromas Emanating from the Driest of Places
16
2 Caravans Leaving Arabia Felix
37
3 Uncovering Hidden Outposts in the Desert
60
4 Omanis Rocking the Cradle of Civilization
90
5 Mecca and the Migrations of Muslim and Jewish Traders
105
6 Merging the Spice Routes with the Silk Roads
133
7 The Flourishing of CrossCultural Collaboration in Iberia
161
9 Building Bridges between Continents and Cultures
198
10 Navigating the Maritime Silk Roads from China to Africa
214
11 Vasco da Gama Mastering the Game of Globalization
231
12 Crossing the Drawbridge over the Eastern Ocean
243
Culinary Imperialism and Its Alternatives
270
Acknowledgments
277
Notes
279
Index
293

8 The Crumbling of Convivencia and the Rise of Transnational Guilds
181

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About the author (2014)

Gary Paul Nabhan is an Ecumenical Franciscan Brother, MacArthur "genius" award winner, and ethnobotanist of Arab-American descent. His food and farming books include Food from the Radical Center, Where Our Food Comes From, and the forthcoming Jesus for Farmers and Fishers.

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