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The Taste of Conquest: The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice
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The Taste of Conquest: The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice

3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  419 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
The smell of sweet cinnamon on your morning oatmeal, the gentle heat of gingerbread, the sharp piquant bite from your everyday peppermill. The tales these spices could tell: of lavish Renaissance banquets perfumed with cloves, and flimsy sailing ships sent around the world to secure a scented prize; of cinnamon-dusted custard tarts and nutmeg-induced genocide; of pungent e ...more
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Published October 28th 2008 by Ballantine Books (first published November 6th 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,491)
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Rex Fuller
Dec 21, 2015 Rex Fuller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The commonplace theory is that the search for cod and spice largely drove the history of European expansions. I think that theory ignores too many things, such as whale oil, furs, gold, and of course, religion. But there’s no question the hunger for spice, and especially pepper, drove centuries of long distance trade. This book tells that story and tells it amazingly diverse detail. The three great cities of spice,Venice, Lisbon, and Amsterdam, one after the other dominated the world spice trade ...more
Ryan Sanders
This was an incredibly good book, although I could have done without calling the Muslims Infidels and the use of a less than appropriate vernacular term for a Nubian woman, but it adds to the authenticity of the time period he writes about I suppose. However, that is my only qualm with this. It is evident this work was heavily researched and well put together. He gave me a clear understanding of maritime events in the early days of seafaring. Whether you're looking to discover worldly cuisine, t ...more
Becky Rippel
Oct 23, 2014 Becky Rippel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cooks and those foodists among us
Recommended to Becky by: my husband
This is an entertaining history of the spice trade from the Venetians to the Portuguese and the Dutch East India Company. It traces how the spices changed the eating habits of the country and spread to it's neighbors and the countries it traded with. It also addresses the effect of this on the islands/countries growing the spices.

Just one note of interest: When the Pope declared no animal products could be eaten during Lent, the southern countries had the fresh fish from the oceans and lake and
This book was really fun. Much of the reason is that food is very interesting to me. While food at its core is just chemical energy to sustain life, in reality it has such a greater impact on culture, language, medicine, and most of all our enjoyment of life.

It is really interesting of how spices had such an exotic allure, and a hefty price tag, which allowed three very small cities in Venice, Lisbon, and Amsterdam, to build great trade empires of such fancy luxury goods. It is also very neat t
Anton Tomsinov
Jul 14, 2014 Anton Tomsinov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title speaks the truth: the book gave me an insatiable urge to go do some conquests and to taste something spicy. This is a history porn and food porn at once. i mean, you may well know all of these stories, but you still get enormous sensual pleasure from reading about perilous journeys, distant islands in the southern seas and long-forgotten recipes. The book breaks a few myths about spices, and connections to modern times are interesting. Funny that today we eat a lot more spices than ric ...more
Rebecca Huston
A very good look at the role of spice and the acquisition thereof, with the author using the story of three cities -- Venice, Italy; Lisbon, Portugal and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Lots of little historical details, the blowing up of a few myths and plenty of ideas to fire your imagination. Four stars overall.

For the longer review, please go here:
Jun 17, 2016 Popup-ch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How the spice trade built three very different cities, Venice, Lisbon and Amsterdam.

Venice was transformed from a ramshackle fishing village on stilts into a powerhouse of international trade by dealing in spices, picking up the spices where the camel caravans ended their overland trek, either at Alexandria or Damascus, and selling them all over Europe. (Krondl only mentions in passing the other lucrative trade that helped enrich the merchants of Venice - slaves.)

Portugal's entry on the world st
Sep 26, 2011 Jules rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Mostly I think Krondl couldn't decide what kind of a book he wanted this to be. Economic history? Military? Cultural? He was trying to be all three at different points and I think he could have done all three if the book were three times as long, maybe. There were some really fascinating bits in here, but in general the pacing felt off -- it all felt a little off, overall.
Jan 01, 2015 Lauren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Because I was using this book for a research paper I did not get to read it as in depth as I would have liked however what I did read was incredibly interesting and well written. There were some statements he made that were contrary to popular belief but he backed them all up pretty well. I will be buying this book so as to add it to my collection of non-fiction
The tale of the spice trade in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, focusing on Venice, Portugal, and the Dutch East India Company. Krondl draws upon sources from sailors' stories to old recipes to trade routes. Unfortunately, this book is very poorly organized and the history Krondl relates is tangled in innumerable tangents. I still don't know why the Portuguese discovery of their own spice route would have stopped the Venetian trade, for instance. There are hints of breadth to this histor ...more
This is a far-reaching book that touches on food, history, cultures around the world, and sources of current tension between countries. The three great cities mentioned, Venice, Lisbon, and Amsterdam, were singularly nasty in their pursuit of spices and profit. The spice trade seemed to go hand-in-hand with slavery, genocide, and the extermination of cities. The sack of Constantinople, for instance, was in part due to Venice's desire to wrest the spice trade away from Byzantium.
Krondl explored
Raquel Leite
Nov 20, 2011 Raquel Leite rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Este livro fascinou-me desde o princípio. Dá ao leitor uma perspectiva diferente de como as especiarias faziam, e ainda fazem, parte da cozinha. Falando principalmente de Veneza, Amesterdão e claro que não podia faltar a nossa Lisboa.
É engraçado ver como elas, especiarias, mudaram pois anteriormente não serviam apenas para dar aquele toque especial aos mais variados pratos que se realizavam, mas também que o comércio e as viagens que se realizavam para obter uma certa especiaria.
Cheio de receit
Aug 18, 2009 Marilynmayer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Since I love history & cooking, this was the perfect book for me. It also brought my interest in all things Indonesian into focus because the former Spice Islands played such an integral role in the spice trade. The three cities of spice were Venice, Lisbon, and Amsterdam. Venice jealously guarded its monopoly of the spice trade, having no qualms in going to war against any other Adriatic city to maintain its control. Of course, with that control came a loss of 60% of its population in 18 mo ...more
Margaret Sankey
Centering his food history on three major early modern trade cities, Krondl tells the shifting economic and cultural story of the spice market--first Venice, with their maritime trade in saffron from the Adriatic coast and the links to the silk road's terminus in Constantinople, all vastly disrupted in 1453 by the coming of the Ottoman and the decline of Venetian fortunes. Then came Lisbon, capital of a poor monarchy until the claiming of Brazil and India, which created a stunning introduction o ...more
Sivaram Velauthapillai
This book is an account of the very important spice trade that drove commerce of major cities about 400 years ago. Instead of covering the topic broadly, the author focuses on three major cities that were pivotal to the spice trade: Venice, Lisbon, and Amsterdam. Such an approach is a shortcoming of this book--hard to get a feel for the big picture of how the spice trade unfolded--but it also kept things more interesting. By focusing on a few cities, the author was able to describe how it felt t ...more
Elliot Williams
Entertaining, and I learned a great deal about a wide-ranging time period. But Krondl has a habit of making historical assertions with little to no concrete evidence, which I find off-putting. An enjoyable read, as far as it goes, but he didn't convince me that is arguments are any better than the academic historians he likes to deride so much.
May 04, 2013 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
An interesting combination between travelogue and narrative history. The author travels to various locations to research the growing and use of spices. Along the way he goes into the history of spice. After a brief introduction he infuses several pages with the history of Venice as it relates to spices and spice trade. Sailing into the spice related conquests of Portugal which, like Venice, used religion as an excuse for making profit he adds to the culinary effects of the spice trade. The Dutch ...more
Neil P
Sep 07, 2014 Neil P rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Written like a Discovery Channel documentary i.e. repetitive, naïve and too easily amazed. Still, it is readable and I think you'd like it if you know nothing about Europe or its history and haven't heard this information before.
Timothy Lankford
Good overview.

It's a nice over view but focuses on the board trends and movement s of history and lacks the details. Lots a great obscure details about little corners of the spice trade.
Jun 08, 2016 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mmhh...Interesting overall, but boring in the details. Actually took me forever to read, and many naps were taken.

Good for historians, or cooks who are really into "spicing".

Glad to have read it, but didn't really enjoy the reading.
Jul 26, 2016 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love history, food, and food history. This is a great overview of the use of spices and the spice trade in the last 1000 years or so. Very interesting stuff.
Abhishek Ganguly
Michael Krondl fell off a cliff of expectations.

To be fair to the book, it is decently researched and tries to bring us up, close and personal with the life and times in the three great cities of spice. However, it is not much of a readable history.

There are surprising facts and figures, some crisp scents narrated through the pages but does not come to close to being exotic. It was like sitting at a seven course meal of tiny portions of bland food (a seven course meal, nonetheless). Krondl has t
Charles Ott
Mar 26, 2014 Charles Ott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very engaging history of the spice trade, written by a fellow who knows food, history and how to write good prose. I enjoyed it a lot.
Mirek Jasinski
May 30, 2016 Mirek Jasinski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book and don't ask me why :)
Sype Corbon
Jun 28, 2015 Sype Corbon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: foodies
Shelves: history
I never knew as much about spices/pepper trading until now. This book has more information about it than anything else on the subject I'm sure. The history is interesting and shows a lot of research.
Dec 07, 2014 Amanda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disappointingly underwhelming
Dec 29, 2009 Deb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
History, politics, power, and food all came together in this well-researched book that chronicled the spice trade through the lens of three critical cities: Venice, Lisbon and Amsterdam. Krondl explored the growth of the spice trade, as well as culinary trends that shifted in relation to the rise of the industry. He also addressed the exploitation of the populations in spice-producing regions that allowed for the wealth of European cities.

Readers who enjoy exploring history and food will find t
Jul 18, 2015 Maurice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic book by Michael Krondl, and an original one too. Going through the rise to riches of Venice, Lisbon and Amsterdam, he describes how the spice trade, and by extension the entire lucrative trade with new lands, came to define those cities and indeed Europe. The book is replete with great detail, fabulous recipes and an impressive account of the changes in European culinary traditions throughout the ages. Recommended for anyone interested in both history, cooking and culture.
Entertaining, but definately "history light". The author jumps around a lot, between the history of the three cities (Venice, Lisbon and Amsterdam) at the rise, height, and fall of their domination of the spice trade, modern accounts of the cities and the current world spice industry. Both are levened with humorous anecdotes. While not entirely inaccurate, some of the author's analyses are more than a bit simplistic (his account of the Fourth Crusade for example).
Aug 03, 2011 Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Taste of Conquest tells a story greed, religious fanaticism, and food. Michael Krondl, who is a chef and food historian, tells the story of the three legendary spice cities–Venice, Lisbon, and Amsterdam – and how their pursuit of spices helped to set in motion the first great wave of globalization. Some of the worst abuses of colonialism happened in the pursuit of spices to liven up the European dining table. I'll never look at pepper the same way again.
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