In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Foods
by Stewart Lee Allen
Lust, gluttony, pride, sloth, greed, blasphemy, and anger--the seven deadly sins have all been linked to food. Matching the food to the sin, Stewart Lee Allen's In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Foods offers a high-spirited look at the way foods over time have been forbidden, even criminalized, for their "evil" effects. Food has often been, shockingly, morally weighted, from the tomato, originally called the love apple and thought to excite lust; to the potato, whose popularity in Ireland led British Protestants to associate it with sloth; to foods like corn or bread whose use was once believed to delineate "lowness," thus inflaming class pride. Allen's approach to this incredible history also includes tales of personal journeys to, for example, a Mount Athos monastery, where a monk reveals the sign of Satan in an apple, and to San Francisco to investigate dog eating. If his history is sometimes too glancing and facetious, even beyond the sensible need to entertain, it is always fascinating.
The book also features "forbidden" menus--such as the one devoted to gluttony that includes an entire steer stuffed with a whole lamb, stuffed with a pig, stuffed with a chicken, and served with sausages--and quite doable and delicious recipes, such as a dynamite hot and sweet banana ketchup and Lo Han Jai, a mushroom-replete vegetarian feast. But the real focus is on the human response to a primal pleasure--eating--and the way people have sought to control it, in every society and every culture, through prohibition. It's quite a tale.
--Arthur Boehm, Amazon.com