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In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food [Kindle Edition]

Stewart Lee Allen
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $6.01 (38%)
Sold by: Random House LLC


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Book Description

Deliciously organized by the Seven Deadly Sins, here is a scintillating history of forbidden foods through the ages—and how these mouth-watering taboos have defined cultures around the world.

From the lusciously tempting fruit in the Garden of Eden to the divine foie gras, Stewart Lee Allen engagingly illustrates that when a pleasure as primal as eating is criminalized, there is often an astonishing tale to tell. Among the foods thought to encourage Lust, the love apple (now known as the tomato) was thought to possess demonic spirits until the nineteenth century. The Gluttony “course” invites the reader to an ancient Roman dinner party where nearly every dish served—from poppy-crusted rodents to “Trojan Pork”—was considered a crime against the state. While the vice known as Sloth introduces the sad story of “The Lazy Root” (the potato), whose popularity in Ireland led British moralists to claim that the Great Famine was God’s way of punishing the Irish for eating a food that bred degeneracy and idleness.

Filled with incredible food history and the author’s travels to many of these exotic locales, In the Devil’s Garden also features recipes like the matzo-ball stews outlawed by the Spanish Inquisition and the forbidden “chocolate champagnes” of the Aztecs. This is truly a delectable book that will be consumed by food lovers, culinary historians, amateur anthropologists, and armchair travelers alike. Bon appétit!

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

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

From Publishers Weekly

"When I pluck a few leaves [from my little basil bush] for my tagliatelle, I make sure to scream obscenities at its fuzzy little head just like the Italians used to." Unaware of basil's complicated past, some cooks might use the herb with carefree abandon, but Allen, author of The Devil's Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee, knows better. When it arrived in Europe from India around the fourth century B.C., basil came wrapped in a tale of fatal passion, which eventually morphed into the belief that a person who smelled the herb would go mad and curse up a storm. Allen's conceit is to take dozens of such tales and categorize them as one of the seven deadly sins: the section on "Lust," for instance, looks at the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden; the section on "Sloth" covers the potato and its supposed tendency to turn the Irish into lazy fornicators; the section on "Blasphemy" recounts how 16th-century Catholic priests roamed the streets of Madrid sniffing for Jewish cookery. While the historical and cultural links between food, sex and religion make for fascinating reading, Allen's structure is forced at times: it is difficult to understand why Allen places France's obsession with bread and class in the section on "Sloth." The book's tone flip and entertaining seems geared to the casual foodie, but its breeziness is often frustrating: Allen devotes only three pages, for example, to the potent trio of food, lust and homosexuality. Cooks may find Allen's unusual assortment of recipes from around the world as well as his recommendation on where to find the world's best potatoes (and it's not Idaho) to be the best part of the book.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 655 KB
  • Print Length: 354 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0345440161
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (December 18, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XU4SIC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #630,077 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best book on food April 12, 2002
By joun
What I have found so interesting about this book is the way people's feeling about eating have been used in political and religous ways. I had no idea of the role eating has played in so many conflicts - even the division of Europe between East and West was caused by an argument over how to bake the communion wafer. AIDS came from violating a food taboo, and even Jesus Last supper was all about the rules of eating. It's an amazing book and very, very well written - you would think with all this information it would be dry but Alan is a very funny man. While I thought the idea of organizing it around the Seven Sins was a good one, its not always completely clear why a particualr food is in a particular sin.
Not that it matters that much - by the way, my favorite was the sin of sloth "a victimless crime if ever there was one" as Allen says -a man after my own heart!
I thought the "menus" were cute and the recipes (there are about 12) looked interesting but I haven't tried any.
THis is the best book on food in history I have ever read
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A romp through food taboos September 13, 2004
This book is an informal exploration of food taboos, from apples to potatoes, pig flesh to human flesh. The book is organized into chapters featuring the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, pride, sloth, greed, blasphemy, and anger. Each chapter is comprised of short informative articles related to the relevant sinful theme that describe the social history of a food taboo. For example, in the chapter called "Lust," we learn how the apple came to be associated with Eve's forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Allen points out that apples were hardly common Middle Eastern fruit during Biblical times. They were, however, sacred to the Celts, and when Christians came into Celtic territory, they demonized the sacred fruit of the Celts by translating the Biblical word for the forbidden fruit, one whose botanical identify is not known for sure, as "apple." Allen states: "The Celts had associated apples with the glorious wisdom from the sun. By the time the Christians were done, scholars had assigned it to `the jurisdiction of Venus' and lust." Each chapter also includes several recipes featuring the foods under description. Some of the recipes are historical rather than in contemporary usage, but virtual all have been updated for modern kitchens and cooks. Sources are cited in extensive textual endnotes. There is also a bibliography and index.

Taboos of all kinds are often closely related with religious beliefs. Allen describes some common religious taboos relating to food, such as Jewish and Muslim avoidance of pork, and Hindu extreme reverence for cattle. One interesting point that Allen makes is that Christ was blatant in his practice of disregarding Jewish food laws, establishing a religion that is remarkably free of food taboos.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grand Unified Theory for Foodies June 22, 2003
This book is an absolute must for the food enthusiast or the information junkie. More than just a food book, /In the Devil's Garden/ deals with how food /is/ culture- it argues that much of who we are and how we interact with one another has to do with what we do, and do not, eat. Allen is an excellent information gatherer, having delved into several hundred sources for his material; but more importantly, he is adept at the witty repackaging of that information, deftly filing everything under the aegises of the seven deadly sins. Allen's style is just conversational enough, neither dry nor condescending and very humorous-- perfect for the small-article format that comprises most of the sections of the book.
The content is almost overwhelmingly eclectic, drawing on scores (perhaps hundreds) of cultures. Allen reconciles many seemingly disparate facts and draws parallels between such subjects as the crunch volume of potato chips and the animal need to kill (!), all with consummate skill and grace. Be forewarned, the book is not necessarily a good lunchtime read; many of the sections deal with food-related illness or delicacies the Western palate finds unacceptable, and one or two of the little tidbits are downright nasty (vide the eating habits of St. Veronica). Buy this as a gift and you won't be able to part with it; get two.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down May 31, 2004
Lately, I haven't had a lot of spare time, so books tend to take a while for me to get through unless I'm on a plane. In the Devil's Garden, however, wouldn't let me put it down and I "devoured" it in one delicious sitting. The book great fun to read -- the author obviously is well traveled and definitely did his homework. There's not too much science, history, religion or sociology to be overpowering -- just the right amount of each. HIGHLY recommended!
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shoddy scholarship, hearsay, and conjecture. September 24, 2005
It's an entertaining book, it's a pity that the author has appearently done his research at 'Something Somebody Said Once University'.

The number of history blunders, plain falsehoods, and misinterpetations is staggering. It's a shame, because Mr. Allen has a great style. Not reccomended at all, I'm afraid.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but some spurious claims July 26, 2005
Be ready to take a lot of salt with this book! There is a lot of hooey involved, as well as factual history. Jusy don't be so politically correct-Berkeley-influenced as to believe that deviled eggs were named because they became unhealthy. It's the spices and flavors, you know.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars witty, intriguing
If you're into food and history, this is a good book. I read it through in one sitting some years ago after checking it out at the library. I had to have a copy for my library!
Published 15 months ago by cf
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
This book has such a unique and awesome look at food history. It's very well written and I can't put it down.
Published 17 months ago by lelder
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining.
The facts contained in the book are a bit muddled, but beyond that criticism its a very interesting book. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Yuck!
I'll read almost anything and I love food and history so I thought this would be a perfect fit. Mostly I was just disgusted. Read more
Published on July 6, 2012 by Linsey
3.0 out of 5 stars Has its ups and downs
I can't say I'm a fan of the opening bit about the kid peeing on his dad. Seemed a bit crude to me, but the point is valid. Read more
Published on June 10, 2012 by HeatherN
1.0 out of 5 stars Superficial grab-bag of unconnected factoids
I am not surprised that some reviewers give this book five stars.Allen has a breezy journalistic style and strings together anecdotes at a rapid pace. Read more
Published on December 14, 2011 by Richard R. Wilk
4.0 out of 5 stars In the Devil's Garden: A sinful History of Forbidden Food
I was very excited to receive this book. I received in a timely fashion & in great condition. I have a successful catering company & looking forward to presenting some biblical... Read more
Published on October 3, 2011 by KWallace
5.0 out of 5 stars A feast of a book
Written in an informal and witty style, this book is hugely enjoyable, full of fascinating information about the favourite foods, food taboos, food superstitions and food symbolism... Read more
Published on October 29, 2010 by Ralph Blumenau
1.0 out of 5 stars the worst book ever
This is without a doubt the worst book I've ever read - actually, I couldn't even read the whole thing, it was so terrible. Read more
Published on May 14, 2009 by Mary Kate Pendergast
1.0 out of 5 stars TMI completely unnecessary
In the introduction is a vivid description of a baby urinating upon its father. NOT what I would want to see in a book about food. Absolutely revolting! Read more
Published on January 11, 2007 by Botia
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