The Spice of Life
The word spice has a kind of urgency. You don't need spice but historically, it's something people wanted enough to travel long, unfamiliar routes to find and bring back. We're going to talk about the lust for spice that helped open up trade and colonization. It's not just the taste or the smell - it was status and a class marker. One was either the sort of family that had turmeric or one was not.
Today on the show, we talk about the history of spice and about its present. It hasn't stopped, in certain quarters, being a luxury item and a status marker.
But overall, as a culture that depends heavily on the visual, we've lost our sensitivity to scents and taste, ignoring the transformative memories evoked by each. We flavor our food with salt and pepper, or the shake of a years old container of flavorless spice bought at our local supermarket, never unleashing the power of a spice.
We talk to a high-end spice blender and lastly, we explore our own curious relationship with one of the most complex, hallucinatory and potentially dangerous spices - nutmeg.
- Lior Lev Sercarz is the chef, spice blender and owner of La Boîte, a biscuit and spice shop in New York City. He’s also a spice therapist
- Paul Freedman is a professor of History at Yale University and the author of “Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination” and “Ten Restaurants That Changed America,” is scheduled for publication in 2016
- Deborah Blum is a Pulitzer-Prize winning science journalist who writes the Elemental blog for Wired and her New York Times blog, Poison Pen. She’s the author of several books, including “The Poisoner’s Handbook.” She’s working on her latest book on poisonous food