The Devil’s Picnic by Taras Grescoe

The Devil's Picnic by Taras Grescoe

The Devil's Picnic by Taras Grescoe

Sub-titled: A Tour of Everything the Governments of the World Don’t Want You to Try.

To us freedom lovers, over-protective governments and self-appointed keepers of morality, are a nuisance we eventually learn to live with, but more importantly, manage to skirt around (with a great deal of satisfaction, I may add) in order to continue enjoying our freedoms. In, the Devil’s Picnic, Taras Grescoe takes us on a hedonistic journey around the world, to savour some of the foods and other substances, banned and vilified by nanny-state governments.

The journey starts in Oslo, Norway, in search of the forbidden Hjemmebrent or Karsk; a high alcohol-content drink, a type of moonshine. Apparently, in Norway the tax on liquor is based on the alcohol content; the higher the alcohol content, the higher the tax. On an 80-proof bottle of Vodka, the tax could be as much as 86 percent of the total price of the bottle.

Our intrepid author and tour guide, then journeys on to Singapore, smuggling chewing gum, pornographic materials and crackers coated with poppy seeds, into the country. Yes, you guessed it; these items are banned in Singapore. The book provides further delightful  tales of smuggling unpasteurized French cheese into the USA, seeking out and eating Criadillas or bull’s testicles in Madrid, enjoying hard-to-find Cuban Cohiba cigars in San Fransisco, sipping Absinthe (also known as the Green Fairy) in Switzerland, and Coca tea in the Andes.

This book is part travelogue, part guide for food lovers and frankly philosophical throughout.

Notable quote:

Prohibitions, the lines that throughout history have been drawn around bottles and behaviors, powders and plants, are tools of power. The drive toward sexual pleasure; the urge to temporarily escape day-to-day consciousness through intoxication; the questioning of the value of one’s existence, particularly when it seems too painful to endure -all are part of what it means to be human. The way we address these powerful and primary questions of identity defines our individuality. By circumscribing them with taboos and prohibitive laws, society denies its members self-knowledge and allocates itself punitive power over sexuality, consciousness, and self-determination -the most intimate domains of individuality.

It was not for nothing that Islam was built on prohibition against wine and gambling, and just about every major faith on proscribing certain types of sexual pleasure. Nor should it be seen as an accident that in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the archetypal humans were warned to stay away from forbidden fruit: the absurdity of picking a harmless apple (though it may well have been a pear, a fig or a pomegranate) says a lot about how power likes to assert itself through arbitrary prohibitions. It was the serpent, the tempter to knowledge, who invited humans to their first picnic. As Mark Twain put it : “Adam was but human -this explains it all. he did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.”

It’s Friday Night and I’m Cleaning Up My Blog While Sipping on a Vodka Lemonade

I had some trouble over the last few days with my blog’s home page appearance. For some reason my sidebar disappeared and then reappeared at the bottom of the page. I could not view one of my posts on the home page; the one about Zimbabwe’s fantastic inflation rate. I tried changing themes and became quite exasperated, when nothing seemed to work.

I cannot believe that at one point, I even suspected Mugabe’s henchmen of sabotaging my blog page because of the post I made about the inflation. Eventually, the Vodka’s worked their magic and I have now managed to change the theme and appearance and everything seems to be in the right place.

I hope you will like the new simple white and grey theme, nothing fancy. I’m sure my Christian colleague from work will appreciate the change from the previous dark black scheme, which incidentally led him to believe I was linked to Satanism. Strange people, these religious types; who seem to immediately associate black with Satanism. Now that the appearance has changed, I wonder which freak cult or religious abomination he will now associate me with?

Year of the Potato

How many of you knew that the United Nations had declared 2008, the International Year of the Potato? Well, it’s nearly the final month of the year, and I have to admit, that I for one, only heard about this declaration a few days ago. I have to further admit that I had no idea that vegetables were thus honoured; I mean I know about the Year of the Monkey, Year of the Dragon, and the Year of Living Dangerously, but Year of the Potato? Come on now!

Seriously folks, 2008 is the year of the humble potato and that’s not all. It’s also the Year of the Frog, the Year of the Reef (as in Coral Reef), and, the Year of the Dolphin, 2007, has been extended to 2008 for some reason. 2008 is also being touted unofficially as the Year of the Women. Year of the Women? Could Hilary Clinton losing the democratic nomination, and that astronaut losing her tools in space be considered as setbacks? I wonder! And hey, although not official, this could also be considered as the Year of Barack Obama, but I suppose that could be next year as well. Seems this year which is almost over, is a lot of things that hardly anyone knows about.

Anyway, back to the Year of the Potato. I’ve never really given much thought to the potato, apart from the fact that it tastes great, roasted, baked, fried or mashed, and that it accompanies practically anything. I’ve known for some time that potato’s originated in the South American Andes near Peru, but I had no idea that there are some 200 species, and about 500 different varieties still grown in the Andes mountain area. If you’re interested, you can check out all the facts and myths about potato’s, even try out some recipes at Year of the Potato 2008.

Well, since there is only one month left in the Year of the Potato, I’m off to find some of the distilled variety, from Eastern Europe. I know potato farmer, cum patriarchal evangelist, Angus Buchan wont approve of the consumption of Vodka, but he must surely be pleased with the cash that’s rolling in, in the Year of the Potato.  Who knows, maybe next year will be the Year of the Beetroot; that should put a smile on the ugly mug of disgraced, former South African Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.