The word "spice" is derived from a French word meaning "special". Used in small quantities, there is little nutrition derived from them, but their mysticism has affected the world profoundly. In this remarkable journey, Planet Food guides travel the world to see how control of the spice trails, over the last five millennia, has made great cities and destroyed ancient civilisations.
Our guides travel from the Molucca Islands of Indonesia, the original home of cloves and nutmeg, to the Indian province of Kerala, with its native pepper and cardamom. Leaving behind Sri Lanka’s sublime cinnamon, they cross the oceans on Arab dhows, Chinese treasure junks and Portuguese caravels, in search of the world’s flavour.
See how Venice, Beirut and Cairo grew rich on their control of the overland spice routes, until Vasco da Gama rounded the African cape and claimed the Spice Islands and Goa for Portugal. Learn how Columbus’s accidental discovery of America brought chilies, chocolate and vanilla to Europe and the Far East. Discover how treachery and subterfuge in the search for spices transformed the world’s balance of power.
Planet Food journeys to the Caribbean, where the British established prosperous spice farms, until they were undermined by sugar production. We visit the Indian Ocean Islands where the Dutch spice monopoly was toppled by the French. We’re transported to a time when bribes were paid in pepper and Emperor Nero indulged in a spicy excess, at the Saffron Festival in Spain. Finally, we travel to China, where spice, tea and opium blended together to bring down an empire.
Along the way, we’ll seek out the secret spice blends that define the great cuisines of the world, including Jamaican jerk seasoning, Indian garam masala, Chinese 5-spice powder and Middle Eastern harissa. With these we’ll create some of the world’s great dishes, each of which reaffirms the importance of the spice trail.