Around the World in Pursuit of Forbidden Fruit

The Devil’s Picnic is a feast like no other: start with an aperitif of powerful Norwegian moonshine; nibble on a French raw-milk cheese that can carry a brain-swelling bacteria; sip Bolivian coca tea and Swiss absinthe; maybe puff a Cuban cigar in a California bar. Award-winning journalist Taras Grescoe travels the world sampling these and other substances that have been legally banned and publicly demonized. As he partakes of forbidden pleasures and risks run-ins with the law, his experiences make for fascinating reading and for equally compelling meditations on personal freedom. Who decides what’s bad for us? What role do international politics play in the banning of certain substances? And what will be banned next?

“Vivid and entertaining… Grescoe, who lives in Montreal, roams the world to tell the stories of various passions, most of them edible.” —The New York Times

Grescoe is of the Anthony Bourdain school of food reportage, treating the reader as a sidekick on a rebellious gastronomical adventure with lots of boozing (absinthe in Switzerland), drugs (coca leaves in Bolivia) and foods that, tasty as they may be, are not for the faint of heart… behind this culinary risk-taker hides a true policy wonk, deeply interested in the regulations that make so many forbidden foods, drinks and drugs . . . forbidden.” —The Washington Post

“If you dislike being treated like a teenager by governments that routinely defend (and perpetrate) the morally indefensible, then you are certain to enjoy The Devil’s Picnic. Far from being the lads’ mag outing that it at first appears—oh so naughty, but about as subversive as a stroll through Harrods Food Hall—Taras Grescoe’s book is a perceptive, cogent and witty analysis of the enduring folly that is prohibition.”—The New Statesman

“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… With amusing anecdotes and exotic imagery, this walk through the garden of ‘forbidden fruit’ is a savory and powerful scrutiny into the the psychology, markets and politics of prohibition.” —Publishers Weekly

“Not many tourist companies offer the kind of pleasures sought by the author in this provocative and highly entertaining travelog. …This delightfully rebellious book will find a ready audience among travelers who wish to stray off the beaten path.” —Library Journal

“The author, hungry to learn more about fascination with the forbidden, crisscrosses the globe in search of danger, excitement, and really wild stuff to eat and do…Not for those with timid tastes (some bits are right out of Fear Factor), the book makes great reading for those who imagine themselves as adventurous, should they ever venture out of their armchairs.” —Booklist

“[Grescoe] spends a year in seven countries, seeking out such delicacies as Epoisses cheese, which smells so bad it's said to have been banned from the Paris Metro; the author writes fondly that it makes ‘Gorgonzola smell like Velveeta.’ … He eats bulls' testicles in Madrid and visits an absinthe distillery in Switzerland. You feel hung over just reading the thing – guilty, implicated and strangely hungry.” —The Los Angeles Times:

 “Grescoe's book is surprisingly interesting and well-written —- rather better than the others [Jeffrey Steingarten’s The Man Who Ate Everything and Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour] which are, ultimately, compilations of magazine pieces or, in Bourdain's case, a companion to a TV series.

“Grescoe's real aim is to investigate the nature of social prohibitions and while instinctively libertarian, he allows for the concerns of authorities who, he admits, are mostly unfairly maligned for trying to ensure that we eat reasonably safe food.” —The Times of India

“The culinary travelogue is a nearly exhausted genre that probably reached its peak in M.F.K. Fisher's hands some years ago. But Canadian journalist Taras Grescoe gives it a new twist by using food not as a means of embracing another culture, but rather of exploring how that culture might try to kill him…” —New York Sun

“Author Taras Grescoe asserts strongly libertarian arguments against the stupidity and venality of bureaucracy and many legislative restrictions on food and drug use, and, on the whole, makes a convincing case. He does this by vividly describing the countries he visits, interspersed with well-researched interviews and quotes from leading experts in their fields.” —Time Out

“However you view his appetite for forbidden fruit, Taras Grescoe is a sharp writer. His latest travelogue, The Devil’s Picnic, is a virtuoso performance, presenting a social history of prohibition in the form of a nine-course meal that lasts a year. Grescoe, who seems like a cross between Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Baudelaire, consumes the feast himself.” —South China Morning Post (Hong Kong):

“His exploits and adventures are wildly entertaining…when it comes to comestibles, Grescoe is fearless.” National Geographic Adventure

"Taras Grescoe bites off more than the rest of us would care to chew and delivers a compelling message about eating locally… Oooh this is good! … On one level The Devil's Picnic is a nifty travelogue, the gourmet aspiring to the darkest riches of local cultures and coming back alive… However, there is a second, more profound level that makes this book one of the most entertaining jaunts into adventure eating that I've come across in years… [Grescoe] has immersed himself in the intricacies of international regulations and the bizarre policies of individual countries… Rather than imagining this book as a wickedly delicious buffet, think of it as a series of settings, each offering a different pleasure while surrounded by its own proscriptions." —Montreal Gazette

From The National Post:

"The Devil's Picnic chronicles Grescoe's worldwide gustatory odyssey in pursuit of forbidden food, drink and other ingestibles. The tour is a feast of delights for the armchair gourmet; it is difficult not to gorge oneself on Grescoe's writing… Grescoe has a keen eye and vibrant style…This book could be read as a world tour of the offbeat and the verboten. We're in Anthony Bourdain territory, and The Devil's Picnic will more than satisfy fans of A Cook's Tour…Grescoe would probably frown on being referred to as a tour guide: Perhaps ‘inspiration’ is a better word.”

From The Calgary Herald:

"…provocative… a fascinating glimpse into all the things that make us human – our history and traditions, our laws and health codes, our tastes, our knowledge, and the way these things change from place to place. Through foods adored and reviled, embraced and banned, Grescoe allows us to peek into the human soul. But don't tell the devil – he'll just want his share."

From The Toronto Star:

"The Devil's Picnic is a far more sophisticated and thoughtful approach to prohibition than the standard libertarian arguments we often hear. Grescoe takes it to another level, examining the specific ways in which prohibitions not only fail but also produce new, occasionally desirable but generally despicable cultural mores."