This chapter begins with the topic of peppers, which comes from the tropical vine Piper nigrum. Pepper used to be used as a preservative and flavor enhancer. It brought flavor and character to foods on the islands. The ingredient that makes pepper so attractive to people is piperine (C17H19O3N). The hot flavor of pepper is due to the shape of the molecule, which contains a nitrogen atom next to a carbon atom, connected to oxygen with a double bond. Zingerone (C11H14O) and capsaicin (C18H27O3N), found in different types of peppers, also give a sense of satisfaction to people. This satisfaction comes from the endorphins created in response to the pain introduced by the zingerone, piperine, and capsaicin.
The other topic of the chapter is nutmeg and cloves. Nutmeg comes from the nutmeg tree, Myristica fragrans. Cloves come from the clove tree, Eugenia aromatica. Like peppers, nutmeg and cloves are used to enhance the flavor of food. Oil of clove was often used as an antiseptic and remedy for toothaches. In China nutmeg was used to treat rheumatism and stomach pains. In Southeast Asia it was used for dysentery and colic. In Europe nutmeg was worn around the neck to protect against the Black Death. This actually did, in a way, help. The molecules of isoeugenol in nutmeg repelled the fleas that carried bubonic plague bacteria.
I agree with the author on the importance of peppers, nutmeg, and cloves. They played a very important role in trade during the Age of Exploration. When the usefulness of peppers was discovered, several islands and countries wanted a part in the trading of peppers. Spain was so obsessed with peppers that it opened a new trading route to the East Indies. Peppers, nutmeg, and cloves also created disputes between countries and islands. In the early 1600s the Dutch wanted to dominate the trade of nutmeg in the Banda Islands. In 1602 a treaty was made that was supposed to have given the VOC sole rights to buy all the nutmeg produced on the islands. However, this concept was not understood by the Bandanese, who kept selling their nutmeg to other countries. The Dutch were angered by this, so they began attacking. Counterattacks, massacres, renewed contracts, and other broken treaties were made. The Dutch then cut down groves of nutmeg trees, burned down Bandanese villages, executed the headmen, and enslaved all other people under Dutch rule. Peppers, nutmeg, and cloves played a very important part in history. They opened new trade routes, increased trade, and began disputes between countries.