Sunday, December 28, 2003

In the Devil's Garden

This is billed as "a sinful history of forbidden food", and it doesn't disappoint. Stewart Lee Allen - who people may remember from The Devil's Cup, his history of coffee - has an easy writing style, and an excellent eye for the amusing or informative anecdote. In fact, that's all this book consists of - amusing or informative anecdotes about food which is or has been forbidden or frowned upon. So there's stuff about how chocolate "transforms women into sex-hungry whores", the exact number of virgins muslims are guaranteed in paradise (approximately 23 million, not 70 as widely reported), the arousing power of chick-peas (so strong that merely drinking the water they were cooked in grants the imbiber the stamina to "deflower 72 virgin goats"), the politics of bread and the morality of the potato. There's no confessions of art-smuggling in this one, though.

Well worth reading, if only so you can be disgusted at the ability of the French to eat absolutely anything in a cruel fashion, and the way the English can take all the fun out of it.