When I picked up a copy of Eleanor Ford’s book, The Nutmeg Trail, I expected a history of nutmeg and perhaps other spices. But as soon as I opened the cover I saw that it was so much more. Yes, it’s a history but also a collection of over 80 exciting recipes from over 25 countries, from Venice, Italy west to Japan and south to Kenya and Indonesia. Packed full of information on the spice trade, cultural diffusion, and use of spices to blend flavors, this culinary journey pleases the mind as well as the taste buds.

The book is a combination of mini history lessons and recipes. The history lessons begin with a discussion of the way the spice trade changed the way we eat because it brought flavors together in new ways. Flavor profiles and a spice timeline are given, and details are included for key spices.

The recipes are divided into groups by spice starting with ginger and continuing on to peppercorns, petals and bark, chilies, lime leaves and lemongrass, the earthy notes of cumin and coriander, and a complex blend of flavors. The culinary journey includes recipes from Turkey, Emirates, Iran, Laos, India, Mauritius, India, China, Indonesia, Bahrain and many more. Each recipe has an introduction with background and facts about the flavors, culture, and uses, followed by the country of origin, a list of ingredients, quantity, and step by step instructions written in paragraph style. No preparation time is given but most recipes have suggestions for accompaniments for the dish, and some have a picture of the finished dish. The recipes range from appetizers, entrees and sides, to soups, salads and bread and include such dishes as sticky-sweet peppered pork from Singapore, honeyed meatballs with pistachios from Syria, and cashew nut and lemongrass curry from Sri Lanka. Additional tips are given for storing, and combining spices as well as layering flavors.

The Nutmeg Trail may have a misleading title but its impact is very real. It is an immersion in the world of spices and and gives a new approach to understanding their role in various cuisines. The selection of recipes is outstanding and illustrates the principles that are outlined in the text. The graphics, especially the artwork, add greatly to the mystic of the book. A treasure trove of recipes and a very good read (if only the font size was larger, as on some of the colored pages it is difficult to read.)

To buy The Nutmeg Trail from Amazon, click here.