Cooking Books -> Condiments
Secrets of Saffron: The Vagabond Life of the Worlds Most Seductive Spice
Published: May 1901
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The world's most precious spice, saffron has been part of mankind's diet--and medical kit--for millennia. Celebrating this fact, and exploring the spice's fascinating journey from the courts of ancient Crete to the American saffron trade and
beyond, Secrets of Saffron offers culinary history in the most interesting way: through great storytelling and compelling personal reminiscence. In prose both refined and direct, Pat Willard tells readers about the ancient gift of the autumn-flowering
purple crocus, still gathered by hand from the fields of Iran, Greece, Italy, southern France, and Spain. She also provides ancient and modern recipes featuring saffron--a small collection including a remarkably fragrant Andalusian chicken dish, Saffron
Crème BrÛlée Pie, and "remedies" like An Excellent Syrup Against Melancholy, one of a number of pharmacological treasures.
Though relatively commonplace, saffron remains exotic. Through its history it has comforted (sometimes literally, as a
curative) common people (who have often had to gather it) while helping to make Cleopatra alluring; tantalized the highborn in the gardens of Persia; healed Alexander the Great; and driven the crusaders to battle. Ward recounts all this, exploring
saffron as world commodity and private passion, finally bringing readers to her own hand-nutured saffron garden in Brooklyn. "One morning," she writes, "the [crocus] blossoms began to unfurl. I gave a yelp, and ran for an old plant saucer, and then I
began to pick...." The narrative circle completed, there remains little more for the author to do except to provide readers with a short guide to buying and using saffron, a worthwhile addition. This delightful book should be in the library of everyone
interested in food and its almost unfathomable impact on human history. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
In Secrets of Saffron: The Vagabond Life of the World's Most Seductive Spice, Pat Willard (Pie Every Day; A Soothing Broth) weaves an
exotic, mysterious narrative about the 2,000-year history of saffron based on fact, legend and the devices of her own imagination. Whether used by Cleopatra to make herself more desirable or by the Amish in Pennsylvania Dutch country to add zest to their
everyday dishes, saffron's medicinal and flavorful charms have been found irresistible by people the world... read more
There are few words as evocative as saffron. Over thousands of years it has perfumed the halls of Crete's
palaces, made Cleopatra more alluring, and driven crusaders and German peasants to their deaths. While spices that drove adventurers to the ends of the earth, such as cinnamon, mace, and ginger, have become commonplace, saffron remains tantalizingly
exotic. Nothing more than the dried stamens of the autumn-flowering purple crocus, it might as well be fairy dust. Resistant to modern horticultural technology, the fragile blossoms must still be gathered by hand from the ancient fields of Iran, Greece,
Italy, southern France, and Spain.
Secrets of Saffron is the story of this extravagant rover. Guided with wit and assurance by acclaimed food writer Pat Willard, we roam the rich landscapes of history and personal memory. We dine in the heavenly
gardens of Persia; bathe with Alexander the Great; are served golden swans at the medieval court of France. With Willard's help, we also discover the quiet comforts of saffron, from soups that have eased illness to pies that defy death, until we arrive
at last in the present day at a small garden in Brooklyn.
Told in sumptuous prose, complete with fabulous ancient and modern recipes—including a Moorish wedding feast, a luscious creme brulee, and a balm for an aching heart—Secrets of
Saffron will awaken in you a voracious desire for the private pleasures of this most precious spice.
"I am impressed by Pat Willard's singleminded devotion to one of my favorite subjects. I have been under saffron's spell for some time and it is
an integral ingredient in my cooking. I love the romance of its noble and complicated history,
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