I'm talking about alcohol.
I am about halfway through this book called The Devil's Picnic by Taras Grescoe (which I got as Christmas gift and am just now getting to). Though it is not specifically labeled as a food book, the way Tony Bourdain's books are found near the cookbooks at Barnes and Noble, The Devil's Picnic is about the author's journeys through several countries where certain foods are prohibited: poppy seeds in Singapore, imported raw-milk cheeses in the US, and in the first chapter, hjemmebrent in Norway.
"Hjemmebrent" is the Norwegian word for moonshine, which if you're not up with your illegal vernacular, is the term for whiskey or other alcohol that has been distilled illegally, and typically, at night, under the light of the moon (thus the name). Now there may be nothing particularly interesting about moonshining, since we have quite the sordid history of it here in the United States during the Prohibition era, and even today (wine and brewing beer excluded of course). However, in Norway, hjemmebrent is distilled to 96%, making it, as Grescoe says in his book, solely for the purpose of getting completely drunk. "You were sober then you were drunk. It was grim, goal-oriented, and a little sad. And the hangover was like no other."
In Norway, alcohol is strictly regulated, and anything above 60% alcohol is considered a hard drug (which hjemmebrent far surpasses). Norway was the first country to introduce a blood-alcohol level limit on drivers, does not allow any advertising for alcohol except light beer, alcohol is sold only by a monopoly of state-controlled liquor stores that close early on weekdays, earlier on Saturdays, and aren't even open on Sundays, and the country has the highest tax on alcohol than any other country on the planet. Because of these regulations, which are so strict to the point that Norway's citizens go to wild extremes to get their hands on the stuff, moonshining is widely popular (though the Norwegian government seems to ignore it), and getting wasted off of something as strong as hjemmebrent is so appealing.
Makes me appreciate the fact that I can pop over to the market as late as 10 PM on a Wednesday night to get a bottle of Stoli for under $20 (in Norway, Smirnoff is $50) and curl up on the sofa with a soothing vodka tonic while reading Grescoe's book.