Monday, January 10, 2005

Forbidden Foods 

Ayup. That title grabs, doesn’t it? In today’s society, there’s not a single food that isn’t forbidden by some popular or scientific person somewhere – eggs and all the dairy, meats, asparagus, the beloved brassica family, tomatoes, potatoes, pasta, fish, all the oils, corn, wheat, soy. According to all the tabloids and and popular diet books, the only safe thing to eat is: nothing. Even air is bad for you. Sorry, all you aspiring breathtarians.

So why are foods so verboten?

Me, I speculate that it’s because some important person ate something, then died from it. That would be a pretty scary thing, back in pre-history, that something meant to keep you alive killed you. So, all the survivors avoided that food, and taught their descendent to avoid it, too. Eventually, it became wrapped up in mysticism and religion, and now they were forbidden to eat it by their gods.

Of course, it could also have been because of hoarding: an important person really liked a certain food, and refused to let anyone else eat it. They wrapped it up in religion to enforce the rule, and it passed down generations that way: only a privileged few were able to safely eat the forbidden food.

Then, of course, when people became more numerous, we have merchants getting into it and politicians allying with merchants. That’s one of the more powerful reasons behind Fish Fridays and fast days of various sorts.

Cool, huh?

There are many stories involving the sins of foods, and how they became forbidden, and why we still eat them. And, in the many years I’ve been knocking about, many food-related anecdotes which highlight some of these food taboos. I think I’ve violated almost all of them at one time or other.

Until we open the Cracked Cauldron, we’ll explore some of the stories about the foods we’ll serve, from Virgin’s Nipples (a classic Italian custard filled pastry topped with a candied cherry) to the Potato Wars and beyond.

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