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The Book Bringing Your Favourite Spices To Life

September 2017Mr Porter

In a modern world where every type of food is just a click away, it can be very easy to take things for granted. How much thought, for example, do you give to the weird and wonderful spices we use to season our food every day? Not much, we wager. Author Ms Caz Hildebrand, however, does – and she has put all of her findings into a rather lovely book called The Grammar Of Spice, published by Thames & Hudson. Covering more than 60 spices, she looks into the history and forgotten facts of everything from tamarind to the tonka bean, and includes some nifty recipes to get the best out of them. The Grammar Of Spice is far from your average encyclopedia, however. It is inspired by a book called The Grammar of Ornament, published in 1856 by architect and designer Mr Owen Jones, which documented decorative art and design from various countries like never before. Just as it influenced Mr William Morris, Mr Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, Mr Owen’s work has influenced Ms Hildebrand to pair her exploration of spices with various accompanying patterns and decoration to further illuminate her study. You can see examples of this, below, along with what we learnt about five of the most common spices in our kitchen.

What to find out more? You can buy the book here.


Ginger is the rhizome (the underground stem, as opposed to the root) of a bamboo-like plant native to Southern Asia. An important spice for millennia, records in Sanskrit literature show that it was used in Indian cooking since antiquity and it was famously a staple in the diet of the philosopher Confucius. The Romans brought ginger to Europe. The English tradition of making gingerbread men originates with Queen Elizabeth I, who gave them to guests made in their likeness. Ginger is known to work as potent bait for fishing.

Try: make ginger and honey tea by putting 1 cup water and a finely chopped knob of ginger in a small pan and bringing to the boil. Leave to infuse for three to four minutes, then strain into a mug and sweeten with honey to taste, adding a squeeze of lemon if you like.