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Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, Far East

The Spice Route

In this talk, we examined the emergence of one of the world’s first truly global enterprises: the Spice Trade.  We traced the development of routes from the Far East via the Levant to Europe by means of sea routes and later camel caravans.  We took a look at the use of herbs, spices, and incense for culinary uses, but also for medicinal and religious purposes.  

We charted the rise of Alexandria as a major trading hub in the Hellenistic period and saw how the Greek passion for spices was inherited by Rome.  

We examined the rise of successful trading hubs in modern-day Yemen and Jordan, and the way the spread of Islam mirrored the Spice Routes, as the Arab conquest of the Middle East spread both the new faith and the old spices throughout the region.  

The Crusades played an important role in re-introducing spices back to Europe, and we noted their lavish use in Medieval and Renaissance dishes.   This taste for spices was challenged by the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, which led to a search for a new route to India and the Age of Exploration.

Finally, we learned about the fierce competition between Dutch and British government-sponsored trading companies in the 17th century and the eventual decline of spices as a primary trading commodity.

In the lists below, you will find not only interesting histories of the spice trade but also cookbooks that are excellent guides to introducing new spices into your cooking.  You’ll also find some suggestions for spice blends from around the world.

Bon Appetit!


Cookbooks & Spice Blends

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