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Gastronomic Mono-Culture

Is that or is that not, the best phrase you've ever heard?

Gastronomic Mono-Culture.  When I first heard it I was so taken by it that i repeated it out loud.  More than once.

I was listening to the CBC during my drive home from work, and they were interviewing Taras Grescoe, a Montreal-based journalist who has just published a book called The Devil's Picnic: Around the World in Pursuit of Forbidden Fruit.

I've just ordered my copy, and I'll let you know how the book is once I've read it. 

During the interview, Grescoe spoke about the cultural significance of these forbidden foods to their local areas.  One thing he mentioned, that we all already know, is that where ever the forbidden (or potentially dangerous) foodstuff is a part of the culture, abuse of the substance is rare.  Bolivia doesn't have problems with cocaine addiction. The French, for all the wine, cheese and pastry, are neither alcoholic nor fat.  Perhaps that's the big problem with North America.  We have no culture to call our own.

Resisting the Mono-Culture

What was truly interesting though, was the resistance to legalization.  Whether it's coca leaves in Bolivia or Absinthe in Switzerland - they're illegal but common and accessible, regardless.  So why not make them legal?  Part of the resistance seems to be the fear of commercialization. As long as these forbidden fruits are prepared and distributed illicitly, they don't leave their local areas, they don't become diluted and common and mediocre. This, in fact, seems to be happening slowly with Absinthe - although the illicitly produced stuff is still, by all accounts both better in taste and more staggering in wormwood. 

So - leaving them illegal means that they continue to be produced and distributed locally they way they have been for centuries. 

What Grescoe didn't come out and say, although the implication is certainly there, is that resisitance to this sweeping wave of mediocrity and sameness has two sides.  There is the desire to prevent what's outside from getting in - but there is also the desire to keep what is inside from getting out.

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