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  • "The desire for spices, however, was already waning before European colonial expansion reached its zenith. By the 18th century, European food preferences had dramatically changed in favor of a richer but blander taste, and spices were no longer associated with healing or the sacred. The spice trade became unimportant.... In the summer of 2004, Hurricane Frances destroyed the nutmeg crop of Granada, the largest producer of this spice, yet the world financial system did not tremble. In fact, it took no notice whatsoever. A once great commodity is now a mere flavoring. Timothy Morton put it cogently in his book The Poetics of Spice: 'Yesterday's banquet ingredient becomes today's Dunkin' Donuts apple-cinnamon item.'"

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 3.

    Later same book:
    "The bulk of the world trade and consumption of spices took place considerably east of the Mediterranean. Europe was a peripheral player and India was the center of a trade that reached eastward to China for sales and to Indonesia and Indochina for supply, and westward toward Persia, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and Egypt for distribution to both the Islamic Middle East and ultimately Europe. The Indian subcontinent was, in the words of the economic historian Janet Abu-Lughod, 'on the way to everywhere,' not, as the European intellectuals imagined, at the edge of the world." (p. 105)

    "The direct trade with the West was largely in the hands of Arab entrepreneurs. ... European merchants did not have direct access to this trade except in unusual instances." (p. 106)

    October 9, 2017

  • "Like the spice trade, the textile industry created new markets and networks, but its importance did not end there. Spices were usually grown and processed in the Far East, but textiles were something Europeans could produce for themselves, and for this reason their impact on Europe was more profound. Textiles spurred the invention of new technologies--new types of spinning machines, new methods for bleaching--and shaped the very pattern of work itself."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 7.

    October 4, 2017

  • "As the chronicler Priuli feared, Portugal's success devastated Venice. The city went from exporting pepper to becoming an importer. In 1512, a Venetian diplomat was complaining to the sultan of Egypt about money problems. In 1514, Venice suffered the ultimate humiliation by becoming a Portuguese customer. It was over for the republic. In a last gasp to hold on, it shifted its economy from trade to industry. Glass, soap, silk and wool makers surpassed the Arsenal shipyard as the city's leading manufacturer. But the old spark ... disappeared, and Venice began its decline. Changing with the times, Fugger shifted the center of his foreign activities to Antwerp. As for Portugal, it dominated the spice business until the next century when the Dutch broke its grip."

    --Greg Steinmetz, The Richest Man Who Ever Lived: The Life and Times of Jacob Fugger (NY and London: Simon & Schuster, 2015), 60

    February 6, 2017

  • "For the sake of spices East and West had an ancient relationship. In light of the appearance of spices in the most remote periods, it is a reasonable possibility that it was because of spices that they first met. Yet so thoroughly implanted is the sense of the otherness of spices that native Mediterranean aromatics such as cumin, coriander, saffron, and fennel have come to be associated more with the cuisine of the countries that adopted them than with the lands of their origin--a reminder that the cultural traffic that traveled along the spice routes went both ways. ... Today, when spices are making a comeback ... it is often claimed that spices were introduced with the great wave of migration from the former colonies. It is a claim that would have startled the first Europeans who went to Asia, particularly since it was spice that lured many of them there."
    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 305-6

    December 6, 2016

  • "There was no small irony in the fact that the Protestant powers were also the leaders in the spice trade. In the seventeenth-century Netherlands, even as the VOC brought back cargoes of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg, Calvinist preachers railed against the corrupting influence of Eastern spices and their redolence of pagan sensualism. In Cromwell's England, propagandists took aim at seasonings along with bear baiting and theaters. ... The Commonwealth soon faltered, but its legacy in the kitchen endured long afterward.... Spices hung on in isolated pockets, but they were not what they had once been."

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 303

    December 6, 2016

  • "... the reliefs offer at the very least a clue as to why ... spices were so valued as to warrant a trade over such vast distances.* For a culture accustomed to thinking of trade in terms of profit, and of spices as mere seasonings, it is a reminder of how easily our assumptions glide into a past where they don't belong. The first identifiable impulse for maritime contact between Egypt and the world beyond, by any measure one of the defining moments in global history, appears to have come not from gourmets but from the gods."

    *Some scholars have long argued that not only this trade but all trade first existed in order to serve sacred purposes. When the word for 'merchant' first appeared in Mesopotamian texts of the second millennium B.C., it carried sacred associations, designating 'the official of a temple privileged to trade abroad.'"

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 239, 239n, 240

    December 6, 2016

  • "The reputation of spices as luxuries confined to kings and great noblemen would begin to change, at a glacier pace, only as the millennium drew to a close. After a flurry of references around the time of Charlemagne, followed by a near century of silence, the trade returned to western Europe on a more solid basis toward the end of the ninth century.

    "Driving this increased consumption was a slow stirring of Europe's economy and the steady growth of its population. The revival of the metallurgy and textile industries in central and western Europe and the opening of silver mines in Germany's Harz Mountains went some way to remedying a chronic shortage of the precious metals needed to pay for high-value imports from the East. Increased surpluses in the hands of an emergent landowning class--kings and local strongmen, bishops and monasteries--brought with them a new level of demand for luxuries and the trappings of wealth.

    "Meeting this demand brought about one of the pivotal developments in European history. Through trade and travel Europe was exposed to a wider world from which it had been effectively isolated for centuries; and where goods and money flowed, books, people, and ideas followed. Exotic and expensive luxuries were, after piety and war, the chief expenses of the aristocracy. The trade that supplied them sparked a whole 'complex of activities'--economic, political, geographic, and technical--whose effects are still with us. Slowly, surely, Western Christendom developed from a sheltered, isolated backwater into an increasingly confident, assertive culture."

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 94-95.

    December 2, 2016