If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, the way to his stomach has, for millennia, been a closely guarded secret. Throughout history, men and women who’ve sought to put the spice back in their lives, have depended on one rare ingredient. Pepper, that pungent and precious berry from the treasure chests of the Malabar Coast in South India, the keys to which were held by a select, parsimonious few. A staple of Indian households and apothecaries for over four thousand years, pepper has been long coveted by every other civilization. One of the earliest markets was the Roman Empire whose appetite for the additive was addictive. An unfortunate consequence of hoarding such treasure was periodical visits by the Visigoths and Huns who besieged Rome and demanded pepper as ransom. The less martially inclined, however, simply imported the stuff from the Italian city states, and soon the spicy aroma invaded the banquet halls of Europe’s swish set. This insatiable demand only enriched the coffers of the Arabs who held the monopoly to the sea routes, and the Venetians and Genoese who dominated trade in the continent. Driven by public opinion (and depleted exchequers), several European nations set off on voyages to find alternative routes to the spice coast of India. The humble peppercorn thus became responsible, in some measure, for the discovery of America. And of other colonies and nations that sprung up as by-products of a civilizational charge to find access to the precious ‘Black Gold’. So the next time your spouse tells you to pass the pepper, you can tell him he can have the spice…but only if he’s nice.