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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 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  269 ratings  ·  40 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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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:
Becky Rippel
Oct 23, 2014 Becky Rippel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.
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
Anton Tomsinov
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
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
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
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
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
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
Neil P
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.
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
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.
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
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).
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.
i love this topic. enjoying the book when i get a chance to jump back in. however, the writing seems a bit scattered, non-chronological. One sentence concerns the 1400's, the next, the 1700's and so on. perhaps it is meant to be read by a person with a better sense of european history--yet it is a general reading book. anyway, i would still rec. to anyone interested in food, history and maybe colonialism, though i haven't read much about the latter yet.
Matthew Fedje
A thoughtful and in-depth look at rise and fall of three of the great cities of spice from the Renaissance Era. All were motivated by different goals but nonetheless had far reaching impacts on global politics, religion, and society as a whole. Very thought provoking in that many paralells can be seen in today's world in the war on terror and corporate business structure. Oh, and Doge Enrico Dandolo is probably my new favorite person of history.
A fascinating and compelling story that traces the rise of three cities -- Venice, Lisbon and Amsterdam -- to the spice trade. Lively writing bring the epic story of the trade of spices -- and their role in culture and cuisine -- to life.
Anyone interested in history, food, travel or culture will find this a great read -- and I was interested to learn that cookbooks and diet books have been popular since the 15th century!
Krondle chronicles the spice trade in past centuries (1300-1600ish) as centered in three cities: Venice, Lisbon and Amsterdam. This book does give a view into foods from these centuries, but spice was also at the crossroads of trade, culture, violence, and politics. Very well researched and detailed. I had to take a break between chapters with lighter reading because of the heavy detail. Interesting.
Chris Bull
I am a fan of the quirkier side of history, especially the history of food. It all started perhaps with James Burke's series "Connections"
Krondl leads us through Venice/Lisbon/Amsterdam and their spice trade. I just finished Nathaniel's Nutmeg: How One Man's Courage Changed the Course of History. Krondl has a sly wit and focuses on the common man more than Milton's book does.
Krondl wins over Milton.
Kathleen McRae
This was a well written and interesting book. It was written by a chef and documented the rise and decline of the three greatest spice empires,Venice,Lisbon and Amsterdan.i liked the way the book was written as the author visited the cities and compared then and now. he also included in his tale the reasons why each city rose to control the spice trade and how each spice was used.
A lot has been covered in this interesting book on spices, wars, evolutions in taste through the ages and more. I found every single piece of information very interesting. the only reason not to rate it 4 stars would be because of the very difficult writing style the author has. it can be sometimes difficult to even understand a single sentence and that's quite a showstopper...
Very interesting history not only of spice, but of their migration around the world. Having been to Lisbon and Amsterdam added to the enjoyment of the read and has added Venice as a place to visit as well. I have often wondered how Lisbon and Amsterdam managed to acquire the capital to become major players in the spice trade. This question was answered as well!
I read this for one of my book clubs, it's a really fascinating look at the spice trade; how spice profiles have migrated around the world (who knew that hot peppers came from the new world to SE Asia rather than the other way around?), and the economic impacts of it all. Also, I really need to make gingerbread or spice cake or something.
Completely fascinating. The history is really engagingly written, and the author ties in modern descriptions of how their history in the spice trade affects how the city is today. On par with Salt as a really awesome history books.

I listened to it on audio, which was great.
This was a really interesting read. I loved how the author divided the book into 3: Venice, Lisbon & Amsterdam. Gave a really good look into the different cultures and countries' views and ambitions regarding the spice trade.
An interesting overview of the spice trade and its impact on three cities both past and present. However, the first section, on Venice, could have used some good editing. The last two sections are an enjoyable read.
Interesting, and provided a lot of good info-but somehow the "story" part of the history was somewhat lacking-recommended for those who are interested in learning about the development of our modern palate.
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