Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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 His narrative makes a convincing case that most restrictions are based on unwarranted or outdated health concerns, or political agendas that profit the government (up to 86% of the price of liquor in Norway can go to taxes!).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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The high point...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." New York Times
"[A] highly entertaining travelog....This delightfully rebellious book will find a ready audience among travelers who wish to stray off the beaten path." Library Journal
"Not for those with timid tastes...the book makes great reading for those who imagine themselves as adventurous, should they ever venture out of their armchairs." Booklist
Taras Grescoe embarks on a journey into the forbidden as he searches for the world's taboo indulgences.
About 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.