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Pepper [Paperback]

Marjorie Shaffer

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This title will be released on August 1, 2014.
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Book Description

1 Aug 2014
The perfect companion to Mark Kurlansky's Salt: A World History, Pepper illuminates the rich history of pepper for a popular audience. Vivid and entertaining, it describes the part pepper played in bringing the Europeans, and later the Americans, to Asia and details the fascinating encounters they had there. As Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds, said, "After reading Marjorie Shaffer's Pepper, you'll reconsider the significance of that grinder or shaker on your dining room table. The pursuit of this wizened berry with the bite changed history in ways you've never dreamed, involving extraordinary voyages, international trade, exotic locales, exploitation, brutality, disease, extinctions, and rebellions, and featuring a set of remarkable characters."

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St Martin's Griffin (1 Aug 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250048664
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250048660
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13 x 2.3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 733,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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More About the Author

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Review

"This is more than the story of a spice...Get ready for a sweeping ride through history." --David Oshinsky, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Polio: An American Story" "After reading Marjorie Shaffer's Pepper, you'll reconsider the significance of that grinder or shaker on your dining room table."--Mark Pendergrast, author of "Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World" "Pepper was once as critical a commodity as oil. Marjorie Shaffer weaves a delightful history of the Indian Ocean and the South Seas."--Robert D. Kaplan, author of "Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power"

About the Author

MARJORIE SHAFFER has written for "The New York Times," " The""Financial Times," and" Popular Science" magazine. She was a business reporter for "Reuters "and a former Knight science journalism fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A graduate of Brown University, she received a Master of Science degree in biology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is currently a science writer and editor at New York University School of Medicine. She lives in New York City.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Journey into History 11 Jun 2013
By Man of La Book - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Pep­per: A His­tory of the World's Most Influ­en­tial Spice by Mar­jorie Shaf­fer is a non-fiction book trac­ing his­tory through the trade of black pep­per. Ms. Shaf­fer is a busi­ness reporter and sci­ence writer.

This is an inter­est­ing book about this culi­nary delight. The book jour­neys through the ages and the com­pe­ti­tion between the Dutch, Eng­lish and Por­tuguese mer­chants. A nod towards the end of the book to 19th Cen­tury Amer­i­can pep­per traders ties up the his­tory nicely.

The most inter­est­ing part of the book was the use of pep­per for med­i­c­i­nal pur­poses. I am not a big believer in med­ica­tion, not that I have any­thing against tak­ing med­ica­tion, I just think we take too much of it and with­out any pre­cau­tions. When needed to I will take med­ica­tion but I don't want to be a guinea pig for big-pharma nor do I want to intro­duce harm­ful chem­i­cals to my body instead of nat­ural alter­na­tives. Pep­per, it seems, has been used as almost a "cure all" for many dis­eases, over the years that knowl­edge was lost but now sci­en­tists are start­ing to dis­cover that maybe there is some­thing to it after all.

Pep­per, at the time, was a very valu­able com­mod­ity, more than gold or sil­ver. In 1498, Por­tuguese explorer Vasco de Gama man­aged to get around the Cape of Good Hope and opened up the sear routes to China and India. Unknow­ingly, de Gama made it pos­si­ble for the super-powers at the time to estab­lish colonies.

Sea fair­ing was a dan­ger­ous occu­pa­tion and the book doesn't mince words. The his­tory of this pun­gent spice is rid­dled with pirates, wealth and greed. Char­ac­ters of all types grace the pages of his­tory, from William Dampier, an Eng­lish pirate who protested the treat­ment of natives, to Jan Pieter­szoon Coen, a bru­tal governor.

Those look­ing for recipes or culi­nary uses for black pep­per are sure to be dis­ap­pointed, those look­ing for a frank, hon­est look at his­tory of trade and empire build­ing. The author uses first-person accounts from jour­nals and ship logs to make inter­est­ing points and bring his­tory to life.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How Pepper Shaped our World 29 Dec 2013
By Donald McKenzie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Among my Christmas gifts, were a couple of books I received from my brother and sister-in-law here in Winnipeg. Both of these were books of food history. I’ve just finished the first of these, called Pepper: A History of the World’s Most Influential Spice. In it, author Marjorie Schaffer details the history of pepper and in particular it’s influence in the development of European colonial history, and modern global trade, The book also opens and closes by looking at pepper’s medicinal qualities.

One thing to notice about the book is found in the title. This is a book about pepper, not peppers. If you are looking for a history of the chili, for example, you won’t find it here. There is a brief mention of chilies, as it relates to Columbus trying to pass them off as peppers, but the book is devoted to pepper. Those few plants that comprise the piper family of plants.

In the first two chapters Schaffer, fairly briefly and concisely deals with the origins and uses of pepper; In chapters 3 to 8 she deals with the effects of pepper on global trade, and the environment. Finally, in the last chapter she comes back to the potential of pepper in medicinal practice.

While many countries were involved in the trading of pepper, Schaffer focuses primarily on the exploits of the English and the Dutch. In part because they were the two major players in the pepper trade (China decided to get out, just about the time these two countries were starting), in part because they also had the greatest animosity towards each other.

Treachery abounds in the history of pepper. The Dutch appear to be the most brutal of all, but no one party is free of guilt for their behaviour. It should be noted that also includes the rulers of the regions where the pepper was grown. As well, just because the Dutch methods were more physically violent, doesn’t mean that other countries such as England and the U.S. were less destructive in their actions. This is especially true when we look at the development of the opium trade alongside the pepper trade.

Summary:

Schaffer has done a good job in giving us a history of pepper. She has researched thoroughly, yet maintained the story in history. One will come away from the book with a better understanding of both the spice and the way in which it shaped history. Schaffer gives enough information to satisfy your curiosity, but leaves enough unsaid to encourage further discovery. This seems to be what a good history book should do.

Reading Pepper will give you a good sense of the cost of this spice. Cost that is not only made up of dollars and cents, but human costs as well.
3.0 out of 5 stars If you like geography this is the book for you... 14 Jun 2014
By Suzanne Jacobs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book can be dry and lifeless. If geography and world history with a geographical bias is of interest this book would be interesting. However, too much geography with not enough alternate scope made the book lack interest.
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful read on a fascinating subject 30 Oct 2013
By Sascha Brodsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Clear, insightful writing and a good grasp of an interesting subject make this a book worth reading. If you are interested in food or history, enjoy this spicy work.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book 27 July 2013
By Victor M. Uranga - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I liked everything about this book, well researched, interesting , informative, i recommend it highly to everybody. explains many of the problems we face today.Victor M Uranga
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