This chapter interweaves the author's personal journey, which begins in the deserts of Arabia, with a reconstruction of the beginnings of the Semitic peoples and the etymologic origins of the words for aromatics and spices. It also describes the properties and uses of frankincense. The book from which this chapter is taken—the author's Cumin, Camels, and Caravans: A Spice Odyssey (University of California Press, 2014)—is the first to relate the spice trade to culinary and ecological imperialism and to demonstrate the indelible mark that Semitic peoples had in managing the spice trade not only in Eurasia, Africa, and Arabia but in the Americas and Caribbean as well. It demonstrates that globalization did not begin in 1492, as recently argued by several scholars, but grew out of intercontinental spice trading practices, principles, and ethics over 3,500 years. Sephardic Jews and Muslim Arabs, Berbers and Persians, all played a disproportionately large role in setting the ground rules for globalization. Phoenicians, Nabateans, Arabized Jews, Sogdians, and Minaeans prehistorically played similar roles in its earliest development. A unique aspect of the book is the linguistic tracking of recipes and terms for spices to reveal routes of cultural diffusion worldwide. The text is accompanied by recipes the author has gathered during his travels, as well as a “cabinet” of profiles describing the history and characteristics of many of the world's most popular and sought-after spices.

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