Devil's Picnic: Around the World in Pursuit of Forbidden Fruit
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Devil's Picnic: Around the World in Pursuit of Forbidden Fruit

by Taras Grescoe
     
 

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A journey into illicit pleasure the world over.

From Norwegian moonshine to the pentobarbital sodium sipped by suicide tourists in Switzerland—and,, in between, baby eels killed by an infusion of tobacco, a garlicky Spanish stew of bull's testicles, tea laced with cocaine, and malodorous French cheese—Taras Grescoe has written a travelogue of

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Overview

A journey into illicit pleasure the world over.

From Norwegian moonshine to the pentobarbital sodium sipped by suicide tourists in Switzerland—and,, in between, baby eels killed by an infusion of tobacco, a garlicky Spanish stew of bull's testicles, tea laced with cocaine, and malodorous French cheese—Taras Grescoe has written a travelogue of forbidden indulgences. As Grescoe crisscrosses the globe in pursuit of his quarry, he delves into questions of regional culture and repressive legislation—from the clandestine absinthe distillation in an obscure Swiss valley to the banning of poppy seed biscuits in Singapore—and launches into a philosophical investigation of what's truly bizarre: how something as fundamental as the plants and foods we consume could be so vilified and demonized.

An investigation into what thrills us, what terrifies us, and what would make us travel ten thousand miles and evade the local authorities, The Devil's Picnic is a delicious and compelling expedition into the heart of vice and desire.

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Editorial Reviews

Neil Genzlinger
The high point, though, is his chapter on a trip to Madrid in search of bull's testicles, a foray that gives him an excuse to take note of an array of other revolting delicacies - maggot-covered cheese and rotten herring, for instance.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
This detailed chef's tour of prohibited pleasures for the palate, from Norwegian moonshine and Bolivian coca leaves to Spanish bull testicles, is laced with magnificent descriptions-some mouthwatering, others quite repulsive. Grescoe (Sacre Blues: An Unsentimental Journey Through Quebec) uses food as a pretext to lead readers on a heady quest to corroborate the libertarian principle of free will. Through his well-researched history lessons, readers learn of the birth and evolution of nine different foodstuffs, and the politics behind their prohibition. Grescoe paints colorful portraits of contemporary cultures by walking the land, sampling the fare and providing firsthand interviews with various food experts: aficionados, suppliers and officials charged with enforcing interdiction. His narrative makes a convincing case that most restrictions are based on unwarranted or outdated health concerns, or political agendas that profit the government (up to 86% of the price of liquor in Norway can go to taxes!). And while he successfully illustrates the arguments used by supporters of legalization, he surprises himself by conceding that certain governmental intervention can indeed be a necessary evil (e.g., protection of endangered animals). With amusing anecdotes and exotic imagery, this walk through the garden of "forbidden fruit" is a savory and powerful scrutiny into the psychology, markets and politics of prohibition. Agent, Michelle Tessler. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Not many tourist companies offer the kind of pleasures sought by the author in this provocative and highly entertaining travelog. As the title suggests, Grescoe (Sacre Blues) went looking for attractions not found in Birnbaum's or Fodor's-but it wasn't always easy to get the "locals" to trust him enough to pull back the veil of respectable tourism. Fortunately, the Montreal native knew how to insinuate himself into the youth crowd and get them to cough up their secrets. Speaking of coughing, his first task was to track down the illegal Norwegian moonshine whose name sounds like a diseased cat hacking up a fur ball: rotgut. Then it was off to Singapore-where chewing gum is illegal unless you have a medical need for it-to seek poppy-seed biscuits. Elsewhere, it was a search for Cohiba Esplendido (Cuban) cigars in San Francisco, absinthe in Europe, and stinky cheeses in France-a true menu of forbidden delights. Along the way, Grescoe comments on the societies that implement these restrictions and the inhabitants who blithely ignore them. This delightfully rebellious book will find a ready audience among travelers who wish to stray off the beaten path; for public libraries.-Joseph L. Carlson, Allan Hancock Coll., Lompoc, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582346151
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
08/22/2006
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
5.49(w) x 8.19(h) x 0.99(d)

Meet the Author

Taras Grescoe is the author of two books, one of which, Sacre Blues: An Unsentimental Journey Through Quebec, was shortlisted for the Writers' Trust Award and was a national bestseller in Canada. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Salon, the Independent, and National Geographic Traveler, and has written features for Saveur, the New York Times Magazine, Wired, and the Chicago Tribune Magazine.

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