Nathaniel’s Nutmeg

Our daughter and her partner came to visit last Friday. Always great to see them … but, knowing my love of reading there was an unexpected bonus. Books are the default Christmas gift where I am concerned, both in giving (for me something special about choosing a book for someone – and passing it over: especially if they have the same taste as me, because then it’ll usually boomerang its way back for me to read at a later date).

And she had been given a book, started reading it, but with little or no time to carry on, thought:

“ … bet dad’d enjoy this one.”

Well, suffice it to say I’m on page 53 already and it is extremely fascinating.

Written by Giles Milton it is the background to and story behind the Spice Race: European voyages of discovery to find the source of spices and overthrow the Venetian monopoly in nutmeg, sago and mace back in the pre-Spanish Armada days when the naval powers were Spain and Portugal. It is called Nathaniel’s Nutmeg.

Image result for spanish armada

It is necessarily global in nature, but speaks of politics, commerce, invention, discovery, human nature, the stubborn bravery of some of our ancestors and the rank stupidity of others.

Image result for nathaniel's nutmeg

The eponymous Nathan has yet to feature; there is background to be consumed about earlier explorers, the Fabled “North East passage” to reach the Indian Ocean via the north of present day Russia. A voyage not actually undertaken until nuclear submarines were venturing below polar ice.

But it is partly about food … food fashion; methods of keeping food preserved.

Oh and quackery: the medicinal claims being made for the spices. Medieval snake oil salesmen.

But it is extremely well written: descriptive, well researched, full of interesting anecdotes and description and I am, indeed, fascinated.

I have fond memories of my grandmother’s tasty sago puddings which, though delicious and hearty always reminded me of frogspawn, and the way she sprinkled grated nutmeg on her cooked-in-the-range rice puddings; adding a definite special taste.

Image result for sago pudding

Like bananas in my recent post (https://mucktwineandthinker.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/yes-we-have-no-bananas-tomorrow/ ) I have no inclination to grow these spices, but finding out about their history during the cannot-get-to-he-plot weeks is filling the time.

Out and about I notice snowdrops, early daffodils, windflowers, and crocus blooms: some hedges are dusted with white blossom (my guess is cherry, but it might be blackthorn) and the hawthorn buds are beginning to break open.

We had tremendously heavy rain and fierce winds yesterday but it must not have been a storm because it did not have a name: I find this current alphabetical naming of storms to be irritating and, frankly, worthless as an exercise.

The Countryfile week-ahead forecast told me, twenty minutes ago that we will meet Storm Imogen during the night.

Meanwhile I will tuck myself up, with a lager and set about Nathaniel’s Nutmeg. Doubtless my daughter will have finished her other books-on-the-go and chores … and be looking to get it back soon.

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One response to this post.

  1. “I find this current alphabetical naming of storms to be irritating and, frankly, worthless as an exercise.” Yes! Me too. It’s a good book, hope you continue to enjoy it.

    Reply

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