For much of recorded human history, the category of spices has been a capacious one. Although largely relegated to the realm of food preparation by contemporary consumers, spices were at least as likely to be put to medicinal, sexual, spiritual, or ritual uses prior to the dramatic expansion in their availability after the European overseas expansion in the sixteenth century. Indeed, it is ironic, but nevertheless instructive, that spices were to diminish in consumer importance precisely as they first became affordable to more than just a small social or religious elite. For much of what made spices so desirable to our ancient and medieval ancestors, even to the point of extreme and distasteful excess by modern standards, lay in their tremendous expense and exotic, unknown ...

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