Ian Anderson, from near Bury St Edmunds, pens book about the history of spices as medicine and seasoning
A Suffolk geologist influenced by a vindaloo in his teens and more than a quarter of a century living in Asia has written a book to spice up readers' understanding of flavour.
Ian Anderson, who lives near Bury St Edmunds, has penned The History and Natural History of Spices: The 5,000-Year Search for Flavour, looking at how we have used them over the centuries.
He said: “I have loved spicy food since eating a vindaloo in Surrey, where I grew up, when I was about 13 and it left a lasting impression on me - I was hooked."
“Also with my job I spent more than 25 years in south-east Asia, indulging and immersing myself in their fantastic cuisine and spice markets, which are something else – a shock to the senses of exotic sounds, colours and tastes all at the same time.”
Ian’s job took him to Indonesia in 1989 until 1996, then three years later he returned there until 2004, before going to Bangkok and then coming back to the UK in 2018.
It took the new author two and a half years to write the book, which talks about humans traversing the globe in search of spice and flavour for thousands of years.
Research in the book includes mustard being discovered at Neolithic sites in Iran, Germany and Denmark; saffron, cinnamon, ginger, galangal and grains of paradise having been ordered in large quantities for Richard III’s Coronation feast; and that vanilla was credited as helping 342 18th century men become ‘astonishing lovers’.
Ian said: “The key takeaway from the book for me was the extreme antiquity that spices have been used by us, first as medicines and then as food seasonings.
“My favourite spice is black pepper and it has a fascinating history which goes back more than 3,000 years.
“The Roman had an insatiable love affair with the spice that lasted right up until the very end of their empire.”
Ian’s book has seen him give talks across Suffolk as well as at the Chelsea History Festival in London and he will continue to speak at events across East Anglia in 2024.
He said: “I think one of the reasons people are enjoying the book and the talks is because it is so relatable. Everyone uses spices these days and they have never been more accessible than they are now.”
To find out more on the book, search the books title online or You can follow Ian on Instagram - ian.d.anderson