Recently, I've been reading a fascinating little book: "Spice: The History of a Temptation". It's not a history of the spice trade, or of the Western conquests in that part of the world; rather, it's a social history of spices in the West.
The book jumps around a lot, with the chapters split up by topic rather than by time. So we trace through the interest in spices for burial rites, for perfumes, and, of course, for food. There's a lot about the interesting duality of spices in religion - used for ceremonies, but also decried as sinful (not just a Christian worry, apparently - there's plenty of "down the nose" condescension from the Roman era).
It's a very interesting book, with lots of interesting snippets. One section that dealt with drinking habits in medieval Europe was interesting - spiced wines arose mostly as a way to make wine last longer, in the era before good sealing methods. Mulled wine - a modern holiday tradition (my wife makes a very nice one... mmm ) - has its origins in the attempts of nobles and merchants to make their wine palatable. One quote I really liked from that section was a description of the average wine as "the wine of astonishment".
All in all, it's a nice little read. Highly recommended.