If you hear the term "spice buyer," you might imagine someone trading goods on a hectic futures trading or arguing with farm managers on a phone, but for Al Goetze and his team, spice buying means meeting with farmers and local distributors in more than 40 countries, often in the developing world. Goetze has been likened to Indiana Jones, part scientific in his discussion of herbs and spices, but he also travels to see the spices in person. He recalls adventures in buying nutmeg in Indonesia and sage in Albania, and has talked to NPR about how pepper gets dirty and how it gets clean. But not all are fond of the spice hunter from McCormick, as buying direct from the farmers has greatly impacted the livelihood of spice-trading companies, whose practice has been recorded as far back as 2600 BC, when onions and garlic from Asia were fed to Egyptian slaves (PDF).
This unassuming, feel-good spice "has been one of the saddest stories of history," from the gruesome, grisly tale of how the Dutch tortured and massacred the people of the Banda Islands in Indonesia in an attempt to monopolize the nutmeg trade. [more inside]
Should pepper, long known as the Master Spice, maintain its choice place next to salt on our tables? Does its storied history as a luxury item justify it's perpetual privileged placement? Or does this mundane choice need rethinking? [more inside]
When my mother whipped up a mixture of fresh milk, gram flour and turmeric in her kitchen today, to use as a herbal face pack, my curiosity led me to find out more about this ubiquitious yet medicinal spice. What is turmeric, the bright yellow powder common in Indian spice boxes that gives such a characteristic colour to everything from dhal to aloo to bhajis? What is its provenance and history? Is it simply a spice or a medicine? What happens when you try to patent it? (previously) Turmeric turned out to be far more romantic than you'd imagine - a prosaic kitchen spice immortalized in idiom, song and double entendre - all courtesy of amche Bollywood.
Chris Foss concept art for Dune, with bonus Nostromo. The images were produced for Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1974 attempt at filming the story, with other artists involved including Moebius and HR Giger. Though the project failed Jodorowsky collaborated further with Moebius to lay the groundwork for his own Dune-like comicbook universe (and a trailer for an animated version of it was even created). More visions of Arrakis can be seen on this page of Dune cover artwork through the ages, with bonus midi Toto.
(Some links NSFW) Any down on their luck stoner is familiar with so called, "legal bud" Herbs of all kinds have been marketed online to the connectionless or legally restricted that offered a marijuana like high without the legal consequences. Everyone knows they are all scams. It might surprise you, that some were not. Commonly sold under the names Spice or Zohai, mixtures of herbs sprayed with synthetic cannabinoid substances such as HU-210 or JWH-018 have been available online for at least the past four years. [more inside]
Silphium was the wonder plant of the ancient world. Originally identified by Greek colonists in North Africa, the plant - a species of Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) - grew only in a dimunitive area near the coast and could not be cultivated. Silphium was popular as a spice for cooking, but its notoriety stems from its alleged medicinal qualities, particularly its use as an herbal contraceptive (the "I love you" heart symbol may have originated from the shape of silphium's seed pods and its use in sex). So valuable was Silphium that it became an important component of the ancient world's economy and appears on coins. It's also among the first species recorded (by Pliny the Elder) as going extinct, probably by grazing sheep or uncontrolled harvesting. Or is it?
Spice Test. [warning: jackass style antics]
I misread Alice's blog today. I thought she meant big Tabasco. Tabasco also makes a nice spicy soy sauce which is right tasty on Trader Joe's vegetable gyoza. I had no idea that they made pickled okra. I've never tried okra, but this might be enough incentive.
Did I mention that my dad got me to stop sucking my thumb by putting Tabasco on it? I blame him for my enjoyment of spicy food.