Whether you consider it a melting pot or salad bowl, America’s culinary culture is rich with spices, both savory and sweet. Caraway seeds add piquancy to Jewish rye breads. Paprika, hot or mild, gives Hungarian stews and meats warmth and subtlety. Vanilla, theoretically the blandest of flavors, is intrinsic to many beloved forms of chocolate, cookies, cakes and even tea and coffee.
Indian spice blends, named curries when made up for Europeans, vary from district to district, from mellow to fiery. In Ethiopia, a berbere spice combination may take a dozen different ingredients - typically including chiles, allspice, cardamom, and fenugreek - to create an unforgettable flavor.
From books that survey spices' general uses to books about specific regions' spices and cuisine and the sometimes violent history of spices, these tales of many flavors are intriguing. Included is one magical-realism novel that very much centers on the enchantment of spice.