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Book Review - The Grammar of Spice

Book Review - The Grammar of Spice


The Grammar of Spice
By Caz Hildebrand

Published by Thames and Hudson, 2017

About the Author
Caz Hildebrand a Creative Partner at Here Design, based in London. She has designed best-selling cookbooks by Nigella Lawson and Yotam Ottolenghi. She is the author and designer of The Grammar of Spice’s sister publication, Herbarium.


“The pips of the nutmeg fruit, resembling wooden balls, have an extraordinary and bloody history.”


“Celebrate the exotic world of spices.
Cook – Taste – Discover”

Initial Thoughts
I had coveted this book since its release, but it was my partner who received it for Christmas. I promptly pinched it. The book is printed in hardback with a soft, gauze-like texture to the cover. The vibrant colours immediately evoke intrigue and fascination and I couldn’t wait to delve into the contents.


This book was inspired by another book called The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones, an architect and designer who extensively studied the colour, geometry and abstractions of pattern. The Grammar of Spice pairs each spice with one of Jones’ prints, chosen deliberately to represent the spice’s country of origin and its cultural role. These elaborate, exotic, bold patterns bring a sense of vivacity and vibrancy to the subject, igniting our imagination and enabling us to be transported to the spice’s homeland.


Content Overview
Essentially a dictionary of our favourite and most common spices. Each spice is given its own page where we learn a little of its history, which foods to eat with it and which dishes to use it in.

What I Liked
I love the relaxed style of conveying information. A lot of knowledge is condensed into manageable, engaging chunks. The spices are ordered by their scientific names, but it’s easy to flick through and find the one you’re seeking as the common names are used as the main bold headings. There is also an index of common names which you can easily refer to.

An incredibly useful section at the back recommends which spices you can use in substitution in cooking if you haven’t got the exact one a recipe calls for.

“It is easy to see why this beautiful, star-shaped aromatic fruit was named
with the Latin word illicium, meaning ‘allurement’.”

What I Disliked
The only criticism I have is that it would be beneficial to know what the spices look like, both as a plant and in their dried forms. The inclusion of Jones’ patterns make for a visually attractive book, but a small diagram could easily have been included.

I’m really impressed with the depth of information conveyed and the relaxed manner in which it does so. This book is perfect for dipping in and out of, for researching a particular spice or simply for gathering new culinary ideas.

“A fisherman’s take has it that when ginger is chewed and the juice is applied to the bait,
the fish really do ‘flock to the hook’.”

Vlog - The Grammar of Spice

Vlog - The Grammar of Spice

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