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The Devil's Picnic

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  546 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
Trade Paperback
Hardcover, 372 pages
Published September 1st 2005 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2005)
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Sesana
Apr 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, food
Not exactly what I'd thought it would be, but that worked out fine. As it turns out, Grescoe is far less concerned with forbidden foods than he is with why they might be prohibited. Which means, in this case, that he's largely talking about current (as of 2005, at least) laws much more so than, say, ancient taboos. Unfortunately, there's a tendency to be repetitive, covering the same handful of issues over and over in different chapters with only slight different set dressing. And he misses incr ...more
Craig
Apr 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Part essay on the concept of prohibition of food/substance and part jaunt through a menu of specific banned items for a fun and thought provoking experience.

"The War on Drugs is a war on plant by another name...Nature is the great biochemical genius...man is a dogged lab technician, shamelessly plagiarizing the complex molecules that took millions of years to evolve."

"Drugs, then are poisons. In large doses, they can kill: in small doses they intoxicate, a sensation that can be pleasurable, con
...more
Dayna
Aug 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was quite the surprise. I was expecting a gastronomical tour through various vices, but, ultimately, it was more a political exploration of why government chooses to limit human consumption of various foods & drugs. A self- confessed libertarian (revealed in the introduction) and former heroin user (revealed in the epilogue), Grescoe certainly goes in with some ideas about how drugs should be regulated - mainly not much at all. But he ends up somewhere in the middle, realizing that soci ...more
Sarah Jane
I have no idea how this book ended up on my queue at the library, or where I first heard about it (probably on here somehow) but I sure am glad it somehow found its way into my hands. What a terrific distraction from all the writing I am supposed to be doing! But you know, it's one of those things that goes like, "If I had to be distracted by something, I'm glad it's something I totally enjoyed being distracted by!" Or something. Something something something.

So anyways, this book was not about
...more
Leslie
Feb 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction

Every course of this "picnic" is either illegal in the country the author ate or drank it in, or taboo, or at one time was forbidden. He's Canadian, so often all he had to do was order the food to his home in Montreal and then smuggle it here, to the US. The funniest, but one of the most risky was eating poppy seed crackers in Singapore--which is illegal, as well as chewing gum, which Grescoe also did, walking around your apartment naked with the curtains closed and many other things. He flaunte
...more
Caroline
Mar 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Traveling across the globe in search of a stew of bull's testicles in Spain, hjemmebrent, a form of moonshine in Norway, Epoisse's raw milk cheese in France, absinthe in France and Switzerland, and coca leaves in Bolivia, the author delves into historical consumption of food and drink and the political prohibition behind them. The indepth research and interviews with locals in addition to journalistic writing makes this really interesting reading.
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The only odd notes were the author's segment o
...more
Sarah
Jul 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting and enthusiastic examination of illegal foods, drinks, and more. At it's best moments it's a food adventure, exploring forbidden luxuries around the world and how they came to be outlawed. He examines the connections between history, politics, and basic human fears and takes them apart under the premise that we don't need to be protected from our own vices. The segments on absinthe and assisted suicide are my personal favorites. He does occasionally come off as the ugly American, ...more
Calton Bolick
Canadian Taras Grescoe travels the world looking into mankind's fascination with taboo/illegal/suspect consumables, through the prism of a selection that makes up his "Devil's picnic". Included in his basket are absinthe, Cuban cigars (though that section is more about recent restrictions to smoking in public places in general than Havanas in particular), raw-milk cheeses, and Marks & Spencer's Savory Crackers with Poppy Seeds (illegal in Singapore). As a libertarian, Grescoe is philosophica ...more
Lee
Jun 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all who love living
Recommended to Lee by: library shelf
Shelves: food-travel
Sometimes, prohibition is a sweet nectar that makes a fruit so much more succulent...at others times, heavy regulation of substances undermines the values of freedom and the pursuit of happiness. In "The Devil's Picnic," Taras Grescoe explores every level of denial. Each chapter stands alone as a study of its own vice in which the substance in question is carefully examined from every angle. From lurid substances such as absinthe to quotidian pleasures such as chocolate, each chapter explores th ...more
Natalia
May 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: foodie-stuff, 2011
Мені двічі доводилося перетинати океан літаком, котрий пунктом свого вильоту мав Париж. Історія була б геть нудною, якби не один дивний момент рівно після точки не-повернення. Сморід, стійкий і разючий. Запах аміаку, немитих ніг і шкарпеток після годинного тренування. А дивним тут є те, що погляд ніяк не втрапляв на винуватця зіпсутого повітря. В міру свого тодішнього досвіду я і знати не могла, що то звичайнісінька контрабанда. Мотиватором якої є ... СИР... Так, домашній французький сир, з сиро ...more
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Taras Grescoe was born in 1967. He writes essays, articles, and books. He is something of a non-fiction specialist.

His first book was Sacré Blues, a portrait of contemporary Quebec that won Canada's Edna Staebler Award for Non-Fiction, two Quebec Writers' Federation Awards, a National Magazine Award (for an excerpted chapter), and was short-listed for the Writers' Trust Award. It was published in
...more
More about Taras Grescoe...
“A few reasonable policies won't do much good if the surrounding society is insane.” 6 likes
“Walking back across the St-Esprit bridge, to the ghetto I'd instinctively gravitated toward, I mentally erected a more appropriate statue on the square. It would depict an unknown Sephardic Jew, kneeling over a stone tripod covered with crushed cacao beans destined for a cup of chocolate for one of the gentiles of Bayonne.
It would be a symbolic piece, executed in smooth, chocolate-hued marble, and dedicated to all the other forgotten heroes--coffee-drinking Sufi dervishes, peyote-eating Native Americans, Mexican hemp-smokers--who, throughout history, have faced the wrath of all the sultans, drug czars, and Vatican clerics who have resorted to any spurious pretext to squelch one of the most venerable and misunderstood of human drives: the desire to escape, however briefly, everyday consciousness.”
2 likes
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