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In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Foods

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  983 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
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,
Published May 1st 2003 by Canongate Books (first published 2002)
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This is a totally over-the-board, tedious, killer review. My sincere apologies for that. But maybe ... maybe ... MAYBE ... someone might walk beside me through this tale. But generous yours truly will forgive you if you skip it in its entirety. You need perseverance and lots of courage for this one. And since its not a fight or flight situation, you don't need to read it.

I was wondering with whom I can share SOME OF the information in this book. I imagined the following remarks:

Neighbor: "Have y
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, food
Disappointing. Some of the tidbits are interesting, but the author has a tendency to forget his premise. This isn't a history of forbidden foods in any sense, partly because there's nothing like a coherent history and partly because a huge number of the foods presented haven't ever been forbidden. You can tell he's stretching when he includes several pages about crunchy snacks in the chapter on rage, because crunching supposedly makes people aggressive? Worse, he got enough blatantly wrong that ...more
I added this book to my Library To Read list based on an NPR piece from January 2004.

Allen uses the seven deadly sins as the structure for a discussion on foods both irresistible and forbidden, beginning with a fanciful menu for each section. Not surprisingly, the Lust chapter discusses aphrodisiacs, but it also includes a compelling case for why the apple was the Forbidden Fruit of the Bible - it boils down to Roman vs Celtic Christianity. The tomato's carnal history vs that of its humble, blan
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, food, owned
I had high hopes for this book, and it didn't really meet many of them. It's more a collection of vignettes and anecdotes, loosely organized according to the Seven Deadly Sins, than an examination of foods that correspond to those sins. There are a few interesting segments, and a couple of recipes I plan to try out, but many of the connections are extremely tenuous, and seem to be simply an excuse for the author to relate some of the exotic journeys he's gone on through the years. It feels very ...more
Dec 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once I got past the subtitle for this book, which isn't entirely accurate, I really enjoyed it. It bothered me at first that Allen didn't really write about forbidden foods altogether. He also wrote about food that caused trouble and food that carried significant meaning for various cultural and religious groups. But then, I realized that as much as a title matters, I was already reading the book anyway, and it didn't really matter that the book strayed from it's titular guidelines.
The structure
Dec 05, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Author Allen sets out to give the history of foods as they pertain to the seven deadly sins- lust, gluttony, pride, sloth, greed, blasphemy and anger. It’s an entertaining social history of human eating habits and taboos, but that’s where I’d leave it- entertainment.

With it’s long bibliography, one would think that the book was well researched. But I had the feeling that some things were more myth than fact; when he got to a bit about absinthe, I knew he was flying blind. (He said that absinthe
Feb 09, 2015 added it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015
This is an interesting read about different forbidden foods throughout history, which bases its structure on the seven deadly sins. It's entertaining and sensuously written.

There are a number of factual inaccuracies however, despite what looks like a fairly extensive bibliography (a "vomitorium" is not a room where Romans went to throw-up their food at the end of a meal so that they could eat more... a basic google search tells you that this is a common misconception. I mean... how did this get
Dec 02, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
There are not many ways you can make me very angry to the point where I start screaming at my book, but man, this one found some of those ways. I'm not even going to finish this. If you want to write about sex, please do but don't make it into a 'I've done a lot of research on food and this is all very true'-book. Just write about Spartan juice in a completely honest way, okay? If you want to write about your travels to exotic places, write a travel book. Do not combine said topics and pretend i ...more
Abhishek Ganguly
When San Jose Mercury News reviewed this one as "Clever ... In the Devil's Garden will amaze your dinner guests", they were clearly judging the book by its cover. If I shared any of the so called 'witty' annecdotes from this book with my dinner guests, I would be assured that they would never return to my table (with a very strong possibility that I would not be invited to theirs either, anytime soon).

There is nothing delightful to mention in 'In The Devil's Garden'. For an ardent fan of Microhi
Apr 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book combines three of my favorite reading topics: history, theology, and food. Totally impressed with Allen's anthropological approach and keen eye to historical detail regarding the dialogue between people and their relationship with food over the ages. Highlights for me include: 1 - Garden of Eden, was it an apple or a tomato? 2 - Pythagoras, the world's first intellectual vegetarian! 3 - How the link between aggression and eating in our brains leads potato chip manufacturers to making e ...more
Jun 16, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food, nonfiction
3.5 stars. Interesting concept, and the writing style fit nicely with the subject matter. The prose is sensual, almost lurid at times. The red of a sinful tomoato is described as "slut-red;" no one ever just "cuts" with a knife, when they can thrust it into something. I kind of felt like I needed a cigarette after reading a couple of these sections. I'm not sure I loved this way this is arranged according to the seven deadly sins--clever idea, but a little haphazard.
While at times sacrificing compete and full accuracy for a more engaging narrative, this is an interesting book. The author chose to make it an easy read, rather then an academic tome. It has cuisine and culture from six continents, rather then just a eurocentric approach. I cannot speak to the recipes, as I did not try any, but they looked tasty. For once, I recommend reading the endnotes, as they are as witty as the rest of the book.
Aug 08, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Had a few interesting stories, but on the whole seemed poorly researched and fact-checked. The author takes a "who knows" attitude to a lot of well-known facts and makes insultingly sweeping generalizations, assumptions, and ethnocentric statements. Also, the editor should be horsewhipped for letting so many misused words slip through.
Louise Davy
Mar 09, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Anticipation from the title but a huge disappointment. Really poorly written.
Dec 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strange but for once the book about food did not made me run to the fridge, in fact it had quite opposite effect and literary killed any notion of appetite.
The subject is fascinating - food as taboo trough the history - with all different and colourful anecdotes Bill Bryson usually throws out of his sleeve but this author is not Bryson and he kind of enjoys more in gleefully presenting oddities and nastiness about what people considered delicacies at various points trough centuries. The sheer vo
Quite possibly the most disgusting book I ever read about food. It was difficult to really like this book even though it is not bad. Stewart Lee Allen has a particular style - he mingles facts with rampant imagination, which makes for colourful (in this case often 'dripping') descriptions but it is hard to know which bit actually contains the morsel of truth to his tales, unless one is willing to read the entire bibliography on which he draws to tell the story. I also thought that the structure ...more
This is a fairly whimsical exploration of food taboos throughout history, organised around the principles of the Seven Deadly Sins - lust being aphrodisiacs, for example, or chocolate, raw meat under Wrath. It ranges from Roman 'vomitoriums' to the modern day banning of pate foie gras, from Jewish and Muslim dietary strictures to cannibalism and the Roman Catholic Mass - and includes a number of relatively exotic recipes, to boot.

It's an entertaining enough read, although I could have done with
Oct 29, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
There's a lot to like about this book; the stories of fascinating, horrifying, and sometimes depraved food traditions keep you turning the page. However they are flung out too quickly and without any strong organization so it can feel like mental whiplash. "HEY LOOK OVER HERE AT THESE CREEPY CANNIBALS! NOW OVER HERE AT THIS PERVERTED ANCIENT ROMAN FOOD ORGY!"

I thought the classifications of the foods into the seven deadly sins was weak at best. Usually the author's back story to get them to fit
(2.5 stars)

This was quite enjoyable in parts, but despite its huge bibliography I felt it lacked depth, cohesion, and even had some errors, which were not hard to spot even though I'm not an expert in history or food history.

I think it started out really well, mostly a kind of travel journal with forbidden food facts thrown in; but it felt like it naturally flowed. However as the chapters went on, it lost the sense of flow, and each little piece was rather shallow and they didn't connect very we
Beth Ann
Jan 30, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
While there are some interesting tidbits to be gleaned from this book, the author plays fast and loose with the truth at times. (Not really something you want in a history book. ) I'm honestly really surprised that this book made it through the publishing process. It's not hard to figure out that the author is really tying together various facts with his own thoughts and conjecture. Some more ridiculous than others. A reader can be fooled by the fact that the author supplies endnotes and a lengt ...more
Dec 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food, 2012
I wanted this to be so much more than it is; I'm very interested in learning about food folkways and taboos. That is, why do we eat certain foods and not others? What events, rumors and ideas form those perceptions?

In the Devil's Garden covers some of those things, but there's a lot of sloppy, imprecise language and conjecture that makes the writing a lot more wishy-washy than it should be. Anecdotes are presented as fact or as representative of a whole culture or time period, rather than clear
Lana Svitankova
Зізнатися чесно, я очікувала дотепну збірку цікавих історичних фактів, як, скажімо, у "Солі" Курланскі. Але це виявилося збіркою байок, анекдотів і історій сумнівного походження, з абсолютно недоречними коментарями місцями, або взагалі просто дивовижними провтиками факт-чекінга типу "We call it the tomato, but most Europeans originally dubbed it poma amoris, or the love apple. The Hungarians came straight out and named it Paradice Appfel, the Apple of Paradise". Цікаво, автор взаалі чув/бачив уг ...more
Jan 23, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food-non-fiction
I started this book with enthusiasm for the subject. I soon lost that feeling. The author cared more about being titillating than informative. There is nothing wrong about writing about sex but don't mask it behind the pretense of another subject.

The book also seemed poorly researched and devoid of information. I suppose the size of the book in comparison to the subject matter should have clued me in.

I received the book as a gift as I'd put it on a to-read wish list without having actually see
Jan 20, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The Devil's Cup is a fun read. In part because the tale spinning is tightly linked with the author. Sure I read it taking everything with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, in this book, the author veers away from that in the text (although it does surface in the end notes). So he outrageous statements are just that, and even fictitious although presented as highly probable. I also found the writing lacked connectivity. The food items weren't linked in the writing but rather expounded on in a list ...more
Sep 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This started out so promising. Witty, interesting tidbits of info on the histories of various foods. And then the politics snuck in with the corn. And some of the claims made started to seem like such ridiculous tinfoil-hat nonsense (something about a conspiracy by fast-food makers to make food taste so horrible so that Americans would hurry back to work faster and be more productive??? really???) that I begin to question the veracity of every other supposedly factual tidbit. Maybe I'm just clue ...more
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a history of food, couched in the general vague terms of foods that have been seen as sinful here and there, now and again. The "sinful" idea is stretched thin at times, to accommodate all kinds of interesting facts and issues and interpretations of food customs, but that is okay, for his attitude is ironic and curious, tongue-in-cheek and seriously interested in how humans have responded to the issue of eating as a cultural phenomenon over the centuries.
A nicely written book, clever and w
Jan 27, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: readin2017
I liked the idea of the book, and thought the organizational structure was a neat concept. However, I had to give it up halfway through because the writing was just not worth it. Interesting concepts or ideas would be set up, but they were immediately dropped, time and time again. In the span of a single paragraph, the author would jump all over the place, with seemingly no rhyme or reason. And, as I've learned from other reviews, there are inaccuracies all over the place, which completely defea ...more
정희 이
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
금단의 음식에 대한 흥미로운 역사와 금욕적인 금기가 전 세계의 문화를 어떻게 정의했는지가 흥미롭다.

에덴 동산의 아름답게 유혹적인 열매에서부터 신성한 푸아그라에 이르기까지 스튜어트 리 알렌 (Stewart Lee Allen)은 먹는 것이 즐거움만큼 형벌임을 설명한다.

사랑 사과 (현재는 토마토로 알려짐)는 19 세기까지 악마 영혼을 소유하고 있다고 생각되었다. 양귀비 썩은 설치류에서부터 "트로이 돼지"에 이르는 거의 모든 요리가 국가에 대한 범죄로 간주되었던 고대 로마식 저녁 식사 파티. 게으름의 부작용은 게으른 뿌리 (The Lazy Root) (감자)가 혐의가 있지만 그의 인기로 인해 영국의 도덕 주의자들은 그레이트 기아 (Great Famine)가 퇴행성과 게으름을 낳은 음식을 먹는 아이랜드를 처벌하는 하나님의 방법이라고 주장했다 .

믿을 수없는 음식 역사와 이국적인 장소의 많은 여행자들로 가득한 The Devil 's Garden에서는 스페인 종교 재판에 의해 금지 된 matz
Fraser Sherman
Jan 19, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The concept grabbed me, but the execution shut it down fast. For starters, Allen divides his book into topics based on the Seven Deadly Sins ... only he's using six deadly sins, plus blasphemy. And flipping through the book, I find lots of nonsense (there's a lot of bullshit about the Holy Grail out there, and he's apparently imbibed some of it) and a lot of personal travel anecdotes (it's a personal thing, but nonficitons books that read like the author stretched his premise to write off his va ...more
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So many of the tales were just gruesome, making it not a very pleasant read. (Maybe that's because I'm a vegetarian...) Despite the long bibliography in the back of the book, I'm also not fully convinced the stories are completely accurate, as many others have noted. The chapters may have been organized, in name, according to the seven deadly sins, but I'm not sure that framework was very effective - the content of each chapter was often very indirectly or peripherally related to the sin under d ...more
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