Night Shades and Forbidden Fruit


We all know about the apple. Well, at least in the west. For the Greeks and Jews in the ancient Mediterranean, it was a pomegranate that caused all this trouble. It wasn’t just Eve’s apple. Hera had them too. Golden ones. Magical ones. Pomegranate and apples are a symbol of life and death and of womanhood. 

My man, Joseph Campbell, assures us that those who partake of the “forbidden fruit” are the initiators of their own lives. Forbidden foods represent temporal life and all that is associated with it including social duty, status, and defined gender roles. Forbidden foods bind you in a sacrament to a cultural deity. Women in particular are forbidden many foods. I think this is because most often women are in control of the resources. They gather the staples, the plant the grains, they cook dinner. On a social level then, men needed to secure their food supply by dominating women, by creating social confines and taboos.

A food might be the property of a king, an emperor or a god. Eating the rice or hunting in the royal forest is punishable by death. Like the Persian army, the crew of Odysseus, marooned on the island of Helios, ran out of sitos and turned to foods forbidden to humans; here, the cattle of Helios (Odyssey 12. 260 ff.). What was the punishment? Death for his crew.

For most Hindus meat is the forbidden food. In the case of the ascetic or monk all food is to eventually be shunned to release one’s self from the world. A verse from the Upanishad says: Everything in the Universe is food. The relationship of a person to their food is the relationship they have with the Universe.

The saying “You are what you eat” is explicitly mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 17): “Foods in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such nourishing foods are sweet, juicy, fattening, and palatable. Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty and pungent, dry and hot, are liked by people in the modes of passion. Such foods cause pain, distress, and disease. Food cooked more than three hours before being eaten, which is tasteless, stale, putrid, decomposed and unclean, is food liked by people in the mode of ignorance”. Forbidden food can represents knowledge or, as in many indigenous cultures, when you consume an animal you absorb it’s qualities. Eating the forbidden means control, power and transcendence.

I was a forbidden thing to JJ. He often waved me around to his friends as if to say, “look what I have. I have conquered.” He wanted to challenge social expectations, gain knowledge, absorb some magical quality of maturity. This is true for every one in some way or another. Especially those who love “the chase”. Like JJ, once they have the forbidden, like a toy, they throw it away. It becomes mundane. I became the standard ‘girlfriend’ rather than the mystery. They have picked the fruit but they have no understanding of what the deeper mystery is – that of saying ‘yes’ to, the commitment to, the adventure they have started.

In taking what is forbidden by society we do become the initiators of our own lives, but that is only the symbolic beginning. The real act comes in living it out. In being not just the initiator but the cultivator, the participant, the hero. It is not enough to take the fruit. In order to experience the mystery and magic of the apple, you must feast on it.

Nightshades and Forbidden Rice

(Plants in the nightshade family can either be extremely healthy or deadly – life and death. Forbidden rice is the realm of the emperor. No wonder this recipe turned out yummy.)

  • 1 eggplant
  • cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup forbidden rice
  • garlic
  • oregano
  • goat cheese

Cut your eggplant in half and taken out the insides leaving just a little flesh under the skin. In a frying pan cook the inards down until they begin to become translucent. Add cut cherry tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes longer. Add garlic and oregano last.

In another pot cook your rice. Combine all ingredients and fill up the eggplant shells with it. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees in a ceramic pan, covered with foil and with about 1 teaspoon of water in the pan.

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“I’m not afraid. I’m married.” R.M.

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