I am at the start of another project that has been wrapped around its finger. This time, it’s the spice trade, specifically the Dutch and English East India companies and how they affected the search for other food commodities once spices started to become commonplace (and hence, cheaper, and not a viable expense of having a fleet of ships to support). The search for spices led to a lot of things, including one path which led to tea, coffee, chocolate, and another paths that all too often led to slavery and genocide.
All in the name of having something interesting to eat upon the table.
What I have found in researching any food who has a history within Europe, is that I was inevitably coming across European trade history, whether it was in Venice, Genoa, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Brugges, Antwerp, or London. And all of these cities have ties to foodstuffs that interest me, including pepper, cinnamon, cloves, tea, chocolate, etc, etc. This strikes me as fascinating. Think of this for a moment – the fact that our table tops are decorated with items because a handful of people decided seven hundred years ago that they needed it strikes me as the ultimate in cause and effect. Unlike salt, which we need to survive, we don’t need black pepper, or cinnamon, or even coffee (although I am loathe to admit that last one). Yet today these items sit upon our shelves, so ubiquitous that most people don’t even give them a second thought.
All of this is my way of saying that in the coming months that it’s likely you’ll start seeing more posts on the following topics: Black pepper, the Portuguese, types of ships, tea, China, heartless bastards, the English, drugs, the Dutch, the West Indies, allspice, the Horn of Africa, and much more. It’s a big topic, and the end result should be yet another book proposal (if all goes well).