Monday, August 4, 2008
I picked up a book the other day to use as inspiration for a writing project (I've been contracted to turn a short story of mine into a 200 page novel); In the Devil's Garden: A sinful History of Forbidden Food by Stewart Lee Allen (here's the Amazon.com link). To quote Amazon.com:
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.
I'm only on Chapter One (Lust) and am totally hooked. What really struck me from the get-go is the author's observation that 'we now judge a dish largely by how guilty we feel about eating it--at least judging from today's advertising--and if it is not considered 'sinful; we find it less pleasant.' Sadly that's true, especially the first part. Rich chocolate desserts are always described as 'decadent' and 'sinfully delicious' whereas sorbet and the like is generally referred to as 'refreshing.' I personally love salads and lighter fare and never feel deprived when eating salmon, fresh tomatoes and other 'good for me' foods, so I'm not entirely on board with the 'less pleasant' aspect of foods not thought sinful. But there is something especially fun and...well...yes, almost wicked about digging into a rich chocolate mousse or flourless chocolate cake. The trick is getting rid of the guilt associated with it and just learning to enjoy for the sake of the pleasure itself.
I'm not advocating wholesale irresponsible eating. Health and weight are factors to be taken into consideration and very few of us can indulge in whatever we want all the time without some adverse affects. All things in moderation. But if you ARE going to indulge, do so without guilt. Enjoy and appreciate! And if you love reading about food as much as eating it, do pick up In the Devil's Garden; it's sure to stimulate your mind and your appetite!