Spice, Sex, and Censorship

Is variety the spice of life?

That’s the question I can’t resist asking Amanda Bevill, owner of World Spice Merchants, minutes after meeting her. “It’s not just variety, but also possibility and adventure,” she replies, adding, “Cooking with spices is about the possibility of what’s out there, the unknown—it keeps people interested in food.”

The temptation of spice seems limitless. “When you think about the age of exploration [and] people sailing off to the edge of the earth, a big part of what they were looking for was spices,” marvels Bevill.

Indeed, the quest for seeds and powders and such led explorers and traders to the farthest of destinations, circumnavigating the globe, from Magellan’s search for the Spice Islands (to find cloves) to Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World (to procure peppers). And for what purpose? Spices were a magical ingredient of food and drinks, but their use as aphrodisiacs, …