One of the new foodie books I got the other day is “In the Devil’s Garden: a sinful history of forbidden food” by Stewart Lee Allen. What an interesting book. It’s all about the history of food taboos, and how we relate to the food we eat. I’m just about done with it, and it’s been a very fun read.
The book is organized into the Seven Deadly Sins, and each chapter contains info about food restrictions/taboos that relate to that sin. So under “Lust” he talks at length about foods that were off limits to various peoples because they might induce impure thoughts (think chocolate, among others).
I read a few of the reader comments about this book on Amazon, and several people expressed concern with some of the authors research, and the fact that he tends to speculate. I think they are missing the point. This book is not meant to be a scholarly research work. It’s meant to make us think about what we eat, what we don’t eat, and how we relate to our food and the foods of others. In that context, speculation isn’t really a problem, since it encourages critical thinking. I appreciate the fact that during these bouts of reflection, the author never tries to convince us that he knows “the facts”. It’s a very conversational work. When pursuing this kind of book, I don’t think it matters if the author puts down unverified tidbits of information, or things based on annectdotal evidence. The fact that they are annectdotes (which came from a person) is interesting in and of itself.
This topic is a favorite of mine, since I’m continually fascinated by the topic of why people do or don’t eat things, and this book has provided a lot of food for thought (pun intended). And it’s a very fun read. Mr. Allen has a fine sense of humor, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.