Posted on July 20th, 2012
Nothing is as tempting as that which is not allowed. Legalize weed, the line of thought goes, and half of the college stoners will go back to sniffing glue. Shake hands with Castro – he’s not going anywhere for another 50 years, anyway – and an army of Cuban cigar aficionados will be smoking Swisher Sweets once they realize they can’t tell the difference. Absinthe was wildly popular with every pretentious mustache-twirler in America, until the authorities legalized it and bartenders started slinging absinthe cocktails in every self-proclaimed “speakeasy,” at which point everyone realized it tasted like a mix of homemade Jagermeister and ass. (I suspect the outlawing of absinthe was actually just a marketing ploy dreamt up by absinthe distributors.)
People are often drawn to the forbidden, and food is no different than any of the aforementioned vices. The real question, once you get your paws on the exotic stuff: Is it worth it? Let us look at several examples of forbidden grub (or would-be grub) and see if we can justify its status.
The earliest recorded occurrence of forbidden fruit was, obviously, the apple from the Tree of Knowledge in the Bible. Since not everyone read the Bible, allow me to refresh you on what transpired in this particular chapter.
Adam and Eve had it pretty good in the Garden of Eden, living like two trustafarians before the recession. They didn’t have to work, so they never had to dress up for work either. There were lots of animals to eat, and the temperature was always around 75 degrees, which is very comfortable. Occasionally they wanted to see the Black Eyed Peas concerts that – who else? – the devil sponsored; they weren’t allowed to, but that was a small price to pay for not having to work at Starbucks for a living. Everything was peachy. The only problem was, they couldn’t eat the apples from the Tree of Knowledge.
The devil was very jealous of Adam; Adam was ripped, had Led Zeppelin hair, and was cozy with Eve (who was a leaf model), while the devil (literally!) looked like a snake. This presented a problem at Meatpacking District bars, where the devil often hung out. Obviously, he had it in for Adam. In a classic case of “if I can’t have it, you won’t either” – typical devil behavior – the evil entity wanted Adam and Eve evicted from their nice digs. But how do you entice a man who already has everything he wants? By dangling the one thing he can’t have. And because Adam wasn’t convinced and needed more encouragement, the devil offered him a great unlimited calling plan and upgraded his Android to an iPhone. Needless to say, Adam took a nice chomp on the forbidden apple. Everyone knows what happened next: Adam and Eve got cut off from the trust fund and ended up getting jobs at Best Buy.
Was the apple worth the trouble? Experts disagree. Some say it was the Granny Smith variety, and therefore probably quite tasty. Adam probably had plenty of apples though, on his lunch breaks from selling wide-screen TVs, and chances are those were Granny Smith apples too. Verdict: FAIL.
Next, we travel to ancient Rome, where – once the Golden Age passed – everything forbidden was suddenly game. Everyone copulated prodigiously, sometimes involving their pet monkeys. (No, I am not talking about the Neverland Ranch.) People wore togas, ate grapes, murdered each other left and right. Caligula threw epic parties, but by all accounts was a major asshole, and Nero was no better. No wonder the empire fell apart – everyone was constantly in the outhouses, because no one can eat all those grapes without repercussion. How can you enjoy anything forbidden when nothing is, in fact, forbidden – and you’ve just streaked your white toga? Verdict: FAIL.
Judaism forbids consumption of reptiles. How ironic, then, that the Russian restaurant where I first ate alligator, frog and turtle was owned by Russian Jews. Located on a dreary strip in a who-the-hell-cares part of Brooklyn, this place nevertheless had a beautiful back garden, perfect for the consumption of amphibians on a summer night.
It turned out that alligator and frogs do, in fact, taste like chicken. A bit gamier, with alligator the meatier (and therefore more satisfying) meal, and the frog quite tender, a bit like quail actually. Then they brought out the turtle stew. I decided that the stew was a copout and tried to get at turtle meat, which was impossible to extract from the shell. Again and again I attacked, with poor results. “They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t [eat] the beast,” I thought. (I liked the Eagles, so sue me.)
How much did it all cost? I can’t say, because my parents paid for the meal, but according to my dad, “an arm and a leg.” The turtle stew was bullshit, but the frogs and alligator were adequate, even pleasant. Two thumbs up, only one down. (Let’s ignore the fact that 1. No one has three thumbs, and 2. I left craving a cheeseburger.) Verdict: PASS.
Perhaps the most forbidden of all foods is human flesh. “Wait a second, you sick bastard, people aren’t food.” Oh really? Go ask a mountain lion or a grizzly bear and kindly let me know their opinion on the matter.
Animals eating tasty people is one thing, but people eating people is something else entirely. Many movies and public television specials have been filmed on the subject of cannibalism, where doomed parties of explorers would get stranded in snowy mountains and eat each other out of boredom. The tragic story of the Donner Party is a good example, and while I won’t recount their horrifying trip here, please consider what’s in your Doner Kabob platter the next time you order it from the creepy guy in the lunch cart.
The most famous cannibal, up until recently, was Hannibal Lecter, he of a very discerning but impossibly pretentious palate. Were it up to him, the cannibalism section of this piece would have gotten a PASS, but where the hell is Anthony Hopkins’s career today, I ask? His character therefore does not get a say.
The most recent – and arguably most disturbing – appearance of cannibalism occurred in Miami, where a drugged-out psychopath completely lost it and ate most of a homeless man’s face off before an officer emptied half of his clip into him. Everybody knows that eating homeless people is wrong. Verdict: FAIL.
Lions, tigers and bears aren’t the only people who think it’s okay to eat human flesh. Zombies feast on nothing but fresh humans. By watching documentaries such as The Walking Dead, we can deduce that zombies will eat living humans as well as freshly dead humans, but will not touch anyone who is long dead and/or decomposed. Zombies, therefore, are basically post-apocalyptic hipsters: they only eat fresh and local, and they wear their Vans until the shoes fall apart and they still refuse to get a new pair. Zombies will not eat other zombies, which actually puts them one step above that Lecter creep.
Unfortunately, the undead are very messy eaters, and never wash their hands before a meal. It’s hard to tell whether they’re enjoying what they are eating: they swallow food without chewing, and it is highly unlikely that they taste the flavor of their dinner. For such unrefined behavior, zombies are penalized. Verdict: FAIL.
There you have it: one PASS, four FAIL. For those of you who like exams, that’s 20%. You can’t even get into community college with that sort of score. We can conclude that, in most cases, forbidden fruit is forbidden for a reason; you cannot, and should not eat it. Unless it’s frogs or alligator, in which case I would highly recommend it. Just throw some Don Henley on the stereo while you’re at it, and you’ll have an automatic PASS.