from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Plural form of spice.


Sorry, no etymologies found.



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  • "Spices were extravagant, yet good for you, a combination that no food now duplicates."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 60.

    "Increased availability does not inevitably lead to a fall from fashion. Yet spices ... certainly <i>did</i> become unfashionable before simply disappearing from most European cuisine. There must have been a change in taste, a shift in what was considered pleasant and appropriate in food. The love of spices was more than a passing fad, because it lasted for centuries, really from the Roman Empire to the end of the Renaissance, well over a thousand years. When we look at the Middle Ages the real mystery is not why spices were popular, but why later, after a millennium of continuous popularity, they dropped out of favor." (p. 221)

    "It isn't as if one day spices were all the rage, and on the next day they suddenly fell from grace. As late as 1667, the tiny nutmeg island of Run in the Banda archipelago was exchanged by the British for the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam on the American continent, the future heart of New York City. Even though King Charles II of England thought his side had the advantage of this deal, he could not have known just how different the value of the two islands of Manhattan and Run would subsequently be. Not only did succeeding years unveil the economic might of New York, they also revealed the decreasing importance of nutmeg. The decline was gradual, but inexorable and finally quite extreme." (p. 222)

    November 27, 2017

  • "The best impression of what exactly the term 'spices' meant to medieval traders comes from handbooks of how to do business composed by experienced merchants. These compendia of weights and measures, proverbial wisdom, and market lore tend to include lists of spices and advice on how to assess their quality in wholesale transactions."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 10-11.

    See also Francesco Pegolotti.

    October 9, 2017

  • "Spices in the Middle Ages were marks of status and success, but they occupy this position no longer, and have not for several centuries. Serving a highly spiced meal in Europe today might show cooking skills or a willingness to try out risky dishes, but the spices themselves confer no particular social distinction. ... Some of the magic of spices was the intrinsic appeal of fragrances and the pleasurable flavor sensations they offered. The desire for spices was additionally stimulated by external factors, by their rarity. Even if spices were readily available, for a price ... they were seen as rare because they came from far away and their origins were mysterious. Above all, they were expensive, ranging from merely costly (pepper) to the fabulously expensive (ambergris and aloe wood)."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 7-8.

    October 9, 2017

  • "Eclipsing spices in status, new plants arrived at an especially auspicious time, for nursery gardens were developing, stocks were being improved, and horticultural skills were making rapid strides, influenced by the advanced market-gardening expertise of Flemish Protestant refugees. As gardening became a gentlemanly pastime for the well-to-do, an entirely different attitude to vegetables emerged."

    --Kate Colquhoun, Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking (NY: Bloomsbury, 2007), 94

    January 8, 2017

  • see also comments on spice trade.

    December 6, 2016

  • "Spices hung on in isolated pockets, but they were not what they had once been. Today the astute culinary archaeologist can still find such relics as spiced bread in Devon, and further north there is a plethora of richly spiced puddings--Scotland's national dish, the spicy haggis, is essentially a medieval pudding. Scandinavia and the Baltic have preserved several remnants of medieval cooking, largely in biscuits, breads, cakes, and liqueurs...."

    and... "... it was only with Pasteur's discovery of the microbe that the old fallacy of bad air was finally taken out of the equation. With the advance of empirical methods of medicine, subject to verification, humoral theory was dealt a deadly blow. Smells and miasmas, the invisible death-dealing airs that had hung over medical thought since antiquity, were dismissed as fallacious. As bad air and humoral theory were on the way out, with them went spices. ... By the start of the eighteenth century, the divorce between the physicians and apothecaries, descendants of the medieval spicers, was already well advanced...."

    and... "With irrelevance came innocence. The sense of spices' latent temptations, long framed in the medieval moral matrix of gluttony, lust, avarice, and worldliness, was downgraded to strictly individual issues of personal consumption. Falling costs and widespread availability would combine to strip spices of their symbolism.... In the modern world it tends to be the poor, not the rich, who eat spices."
    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 303, 307, and 309

    December 6, 2016

  • "With the Renaissance there was a reordering of the cosmos along less theological, less allegorical lines, with the result that spices lost their symbolism, their ancient significance of health and holiness. ... Meanwhile, the conspicuous outlets for consumption were increasingly channeled away from the table, to jewelry, music, houses, art, and carriages. The modern dinner was a more private affair than its medieval predecessor."

    and... "The age of the emergent nation-state was also the age of national cuisines, none of which had much room for spice. ... In the cookbooks of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, elaboration and costliness make way for economy and practicality. In Hannah Glasse's <i>Art of Cookery</i> of 1747, for nearly a hundred years the most popular cookbook in the Anglophone world, the use of spices is strictly limited. Pepper survives in much the same role as it has today, no longer the central element as in medieval black pepper sauces. Across the Atlantic, the trend was much the same. There were relics: galantine survived, now transformed from the original spicy sauce into a jelly. The general trend was to relegate spices to desserts such as mince pies and puddings. Which is where, until very recently, they remained."

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 301, 302

    December 6, 2016

  • "It is probably no coincidence that this fall from favor occurred just at the time when spices had to compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace. The world was getting smaller, and its bounty was coming to the dinner table. The advent of potatoes, squash, tomatoes, and peppers created new possibilities for cooks, at the same time lessening the workload of spices. American chili was both cheaper and stronger than pepper, and it could be grown practically anywhere...."

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 300

    December 6, 2016

  • "Like Judaism, Islam emerged in conflict with a pagan universe, and the aromas that had once played such a part in pagan worship were expunged.... Within the Prophet's lifetime spices effectively disappeared from Arabian religion. No other major religion is so thoroughly devoid of aromatics or physical offerings.*

    *Although spices played no direct role in Muslim worship, medieval Islamic scholars produced perhaps the most poetic version of their origins. According to the great Islamic scholar at-Tabarî (ca. 839-923) and the Arab geographers who followed him, on Adam's expulsion from Paradise he was overcome by remorse and wept with grief. From his bitter tears sprang gems and spices, the medicines and consolation for mankind after the fall."

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 246 and 246n

    December 6, 2016

  • "... the modern perfume industry, with its breathless promises of sophistication and seduction, remains a major consumer of spices. Calvin Klein's Obsession contains nutmeg and clove; Opium by Yves Saint Laurent contains pepper, and there are many other such examples. Ginger, mace, and cardamom are all common additives. If we are to take the advertising at face value, spices remain as seductive as they ever were, even if we are less conscious of the fact.... In New York City there is a spice store called Aphrodisia--the name says it all."
    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 221

    December 5, 2016

  • "As the Song of Songs was to the poet, so this passage was to the predicant: as spices were the food of love, so were they tinder for the jeremiad. In an age saturated in scripture and not short of apocalyptic instincts of its own, it was hard, if not impossible, to look on them as innocent."

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 217

    December 5, 2016

  • "The Egyptians were not alone in sending their dead to an aromatic grave. Although customs varied from one time and place to another, spices, resins, flowers, and aromatics were used by all the major cultures of antiquity, whether the body was mummified, buried, or incinerated.*

    " * The Mayans used allspice in embalming."
    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 148

    More on spices used in burial can be found on frankincense and saints.

    December 2, 2016

  • "Medieval Europeans were no more hardened to the taste of putrid meat and fish than we are. The risk of unsafe ingredients was not taken lightly, and by the later Middle Ages municipal authorities across Europe were taking steps to crack down on sellers of bad meat and fish with harsh penalties. In comparison, the modern health inspector is a toothless creature. The pillory was primarily a punishment for crimes committed in the marketplace. ... Anyone willing to believe that medieval Europe lived on a diet of spiced and rancid meat has never tried to cover the taste of advanced decomposition with spices.

    "There were, however, other flavors that spices helped surmount. The offending taste was not of putrefaction but of salt, as mentioned earlier. ... What could not be eaten within a few days had to be salted down, with the result that most if not all the meat eaten from November through the spring was dry, chewy, and salty, requiring soaking and prolonged cooking to alleviate the taste. ... The one good word Rabelais can find for salted meat is that it worked up a fearsome thirst, the better to throw down the wine."
    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 109-110

    December 2, 2016

  • "History was repeating itself: a millennium after Rome had first sent its fleets to India and its moralizers had fretted whether spices were corroding its once steely ethics, the same concerns were resurfacing. Just as medieval Europe lived in the long shadow cast by Rome, drawing its water from still-functioning aqueducts and traveling its worn but still-workable roads, conducting its diplomacy and theology in Rome's language, so with its cuisine. The mingled fascination and revulsion spices provoked, the intertwining of taste and distaste, wound back in time as far as the Caesars."

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 97.

    December 2, 2016

  • "The merits of the case need not detain us. More interesting is the moralizing thrust, which forms one of the central themes of the history of spice from from the days of imperial Rome practically to our own day. All of these themes would in due course resurface--often, ironically enough, in the form of Christian polemics directed at the decadent empire. As spices were sought after, so too were they seen as an insidious cancer eating away at Rome's personal and public vigor. (How the eastern half of the empire, which survived until 1453, was any less dissolute or less addicted to Eastern luxury than the western half is unclear. With its access to the trans-Eurasian caravan routes, there were more, not fewer, spices in Byzantium.) In this view it was not the barbarians or even the lead pipes but all that spice that caused the fall of Rome."

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 83

    December 2, 2016