Anna Hergert, Art & Design

Book Review: The Grammar of Spice

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What is a person to do when she wakes up to gently falling snow and gloomy skies? How about brewing a strong cup of coffee and immersing herself in a good book? This is my newest acquisition. Where does it belong? My design library or my cookbook library? Read on and let me know which category you would choose…

“The Grammar of Spice” by Caz Hildebrand, Thames & Hudson, New York, 2017.
ISBN 978-0-500-51967-7

What is a book about spices doing on a design website? I hear you! Let me explain why I have chosen to review this book on my site today.

The book was first pointed out to me on a Facebook group I belong to. Initially, I dismissed this recommendation by a librarian, then I took the time to read over her brief review and within moments I had ordered the book.

What was it that caught my attention? Several reasons had me decide that I must own this book. I love to cook and my culinary adventures have branched out with the recent acquisition of an electric pressure cooker. That has led to trying my hand at Indian dishes I only ever enjoyed in authentic Indian restaurants. Let me share with you, I no longer complain about the absence of a good Indian restaurant in the nearest city. One of the secrets to achieving the perfect flavour profile is the combination of appropriate herbs and spices and it all falls into place. I have “scoured” spice purveyors whenever we had errands in “the big city” however, some of the spices still elude me.

Enter “The Grammar of Spice”: The author not only has compiled an amazing array of spices, their origin, history and suggestions on how to complement various foods with each one, she has caught my full attention with the presentation of the book.

Last year I sold off and gifted the majority of my vast library. One of the books I let go with a heavy heart was a reprint of “The Grammar of Ornament” by Owen Jones. (Yes, I owned the reproduction and in some ways immediately regretted parting with it… So, when this “ode to Owen Jones” appeared in my newsfeed I had to investigate further…)

The original book was published in 1856 using a new printing process called chromolithography. The book contains one hundred exquisitely detailed colour plates of patterns and ornamentation drawn from decorative arts such as wall-painting, tiles and textiles. Jones immersed himself in the world of design by travelling to Italy, Greece, Egypt and Turkey. He ended up in Spain, where he meticulously studied the extraordinary Islamic decorations of the Alhambra.

Of Welsh descent, London-born Jones was an architect and designer who became an influential theorist of the nineteenth century. Suffice it to say, his work was hugely influential to many artists in England and abroad. Artists directly influenced include William Morris, Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier to name a few.

“The Grammar of Spice” was inspired by Owen Jones’ book. In the introductory chapter, Hildebrand gives full credit to Owen Jones’ original book as inspiration for her own “Grammar of Spice.” She states “…I can only imagine Owen Jones approving of the natural patterns, lines and colours in spices such as star anise, liquorice and saffron.”

Hildebrand has carefully selected and paired spices with patterns from the Jones book. I received my copy only yesterday and find it difficult to put down. The patterns, lines, repeats, combination of patterns and colour have me obsessing whether or not to turn just one more page…

This book is a fine example of the elements and principles of design and where inspiration can come from. Through the insightful writing, we learn how one idea moves along and is applied to new designs and inspiration.

I give this book five stars out of five. When a book bridges two of my strongest interests I have to give it top marks! Let me know what you think if you choose to take it out of the library, or perhaps even take the plunge to order a copy for yourself. Looking forward to your comments!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend. And Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Don’t forget to “Celebrate the exotic world of spices: Cook – Taste – Discover” (quote from the back cover of “The Grammar of Spice”)


This entry was published on March 17, 2018 at 2:24 pm. It’s filed under Art, Book Review, Creativity Update, Design, In the News, Journaling, Motivational, Networking, Sharing Resources, Something to Smile About, staying in touch and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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