Monday, August 4, 2008

Forbidden Foods


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!


8 comments:

Gayle said...

Congratulations on your assignment, Dana! The Devil's Garden sounds really good, too. I'll have to look for it. It is true that advertisers play up foods that are not as good for you. Look at the slogans: Pizza Hut's "Gather 'Round the Good Stuff" and Pillsbury's "Nothin' Says Lovin' Like Somethin' from the Oven." Meanwhile, what press is vegetables getting? Salmonella and e-coli! ;-)

Marian Allen said...

Hey, yeah--How about Johnny Depp as Cap'n Jack Sparrow and Whoever's Next as James Bond doing advertisements for vegetables? "Live dangerously--eat your veggies." "Take a walk on the wild side with broccoli and kale." "Vegetables--what'll they throw at you next?" "Pssst!--Hey buddy--wanna buy a hot zucchini?"

It could usher in a whole new era in vegetarianism. Biker gangs would have tatoos of cabbages and carrots with paring knives stuck through them and juice dripping out. "Born to be Tossed" would be their motto. A Marlon Brando look-alike would do a remake called "The Wild Bunch of Greens".

Man, I am ALL ABOUT this! It makes Peter Rabbit look pretty darned tough, doesn't it? "The rabbit who dared to nibble lettuces!" Can't you see the posters now?

Okay, I'll quit. The book sounds fascinating. I'll have to look it up. Thanks for the recommendation.

zhadi said...

HAH!!!! Okay, Gayle and Marian, you guys made me spew my coffee...

©Hotbutton Press said...

It's actually the guilt that has the calories. A perfectly innocent piece of chocolate has no more calories than a zucchini until your mind starts piling on the guilt. I'm sure this is true.

Penny Dreadful
http://pdreadful.blogspot.com

Gayle said...

Marian, you are a wild child today! If the Produce Farmers of America (is that a group) could hire you right this minute, you could change the world.

On the other hand, I love Penny's suggestion about guilt. Our pastor is leaving so we're taking him for pizza on Thursday. (I told him we'd send him away with warm wishes and a full belly.) I think I'll order one ham and sausage pizza, hold the guilt. ;-)

zhadi said...

I very much think guilt adds to the fat retention when we eat something we perceive as bad for us. It's a stress factor and stress causes weight gain and increases the inability to lose weight. Guilt free pizza for everyone!!!

Other Lisa said...

I'm all about the chard, baby!

David Fitzgerald said...

I read a hilarious piece in Utne Reader years ago called "What if food was dirty and sex was clean?"
I think you lot could have a field day with the idea...
-D

P.S. Hey, looks like somebody posted some of it online at:
http://www.jumbojoke.com/what_if_food_was_dirty_and_sex_was_clean_1558.html