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i'm all in favor of soy, mind...
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Teh Digital Dragon

Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 1888

PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2006 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have no idea what human tastes like, but I'd imagine (short of actual cannibalism) someone who's eaten chimp bushmeat could probably tell you best. However I did read an article about hufu, and apparently it was a great big prank.
"You cannot run away from a weakness; you must sometimes fight it out or perish. And if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?"
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Major Tom

Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 7564

PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2006 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

yeah, i know...i keeping wishing it to be real
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Teh Digital Dragon

Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 1888

PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2006 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I doubt any product would really accurately simulate man-flavour (that would be a lot of effort to reproduce something most people wouldn't be able to tell you were accurately reproducing anyway) but it'd be great if someone did. I'd love to know what human flesh really tasted like.
"You cannot run away from a weakness; you must sometimes fight it out or perish. And if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?"
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2006 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

William Bueller Seabrook began his career as a reporter and City Editor of the Augusta, Georgia Chronicle. He later became a partner in an advertising agency in Atlanta. In 1915, at the age of 29, he gave it up to join the French Army in what was to become The Great War. He was gassed at Verdun in 1916, but managed to survive the devastation when half of the battle's two million participants died. Along with his medical discharge, the French honored his courage by awarding him the Croix de Guerre.

The following year he became a reporter for The New York Times. His curiosity and wanderlust soon led him to take up the life of an explorer. In 1924, he went to Arabia and lived with many different tribes of bedouins. He wrote and published (like most explorers) an account of his travels. Adventures in Arabia came out in 1927. It was successful enough to allow him to travel to Haiti, where he became interested in Voodoo and the Culte des Mortes[19] -- which were described in his book Magic Island. Shortly before Christmas, 1933, Seabrook was committed (at his own request and with the help of some of his friends) to Bloomingdale, a mental institution, in Westchester County, just outside of New York City. He was treated for acute alcoholism. He remained inside until the following July. In 1935, he published a chronicle of that experience, treated just as if it were another expedition into uncharted territory. Asylum was another best-seller. The book is clear and objective, witty and introspective, the best-natured assessment of such a stay I've encountered.

He was, by his own account, an adventure writer. In the preface to Asylum, he was careful to point out that his books were not "fiction or embroidery."[20] This is significant, because in 1931 he had published a book about a trip he made to West Africa -- a book that had been clearly intended to provide some answers to nagging questions about cannibalism. About other books, by other authors, he wrote:

"invariably evade the central issue, in the sense that they offer no first-hand observation or experience on the one essential dietetic point that makes the difference between a cannibal and my grandmother. And it seemed impossible, furthermore, for me or anyone to offer anything better unless one actually knew what one was talking about with reference to the precise thing that makes a cannibal a cannibal.[21]

Seabrook had been urged to go to Africa to resolve these questions, once and for all, by the French explorer/author/diplomat Paul Morand. Morand had written the preface for the new French edition of Magic Island, He knew Seabrook had the requisite verbal skills, and suspected that he had the particular kind of courage needed for the task. Morand also knew of tribes that still practiced ritual cannibalism. He was able to smooth the way for Seabrook with equipment, letters of introduction, transportation -- everything he would need. Morand felt that the time for such a trip was fast disappearing, and told Seabrook,

"you must try to get inside it. You must see a sacrifice if you can... you must get yourself invited to dinner with the cannibals...no articulate, literate white man has ever done either."[22]

It made perfect sense to Seabrook.,,,

"I made up my mind before leaving New York that when it came the subject of cannibals I would either write nothing whatever about them, or I would know what I was writing about."[23]

Jungle Ways examined (in greater detail then most of us would admit to wanting to know) the very substance of our subject. Seabrook spoke with members of the GuerÚ tribe, and after disposing of such issues as the source of the human flesh (Seabrook was not entirely comfortable with the idea that the GuerÚ had speared their victims during a raid on another village), asked a basic question: Why should they eat

"the flesh of the mammal Homo sapiens,[?] ...they had returned the question back against [Seabrook], saying 'Why shouldn't we eat it?'"[24]

There was nothing for Seabrook to do but forge ahead in his interview. Rather than asking about the taste directly (perhaps because he had already arrived at some of our conclusions about the inherent problems with such subjective judgments), he asked a GuerÚ warrior

"what parts of the meat were considered the best. He replied that for solid meat the loin cuts, the ribs, and the rump steak were the best. The liver, heart, and brains were tidbits, but tasted identically the same as those of all other animals. [One of them said] that as a matter of personal choice, the palm of the hand was the most tender and delicious morsel of all."[25]

The GuerÚ explained that the meat took a great deal of slow cooking to tenderize it -- but that was because they ate only mature men, other warriors they killed in combat. Convinced that he was really and truly in the company of cannibals, and aware of the rarity of such experiences, he

"...felt in duty bound to make the most of it. [he received] a portion of stew with rice, so highly seasoned with red pepper that fine shades of flavor might be lost to an unaccustomed palate"[26]

However, the GuerÚ were suspicious of their new white friend, and they feared the response of the authorities should word of their cannibal feast get out. Although Seabrook saw the victim killed in battle, the meat he was served was that of an ape, not a man. He left Africa without achieving his goal -- and knowing that he was going to have to write up his experiences as if he had been successful. He went to France to actually write the book, where it turned out that there was an honorable solution to his problem. A friend

"obtained for me from a hospital interne at the Sorbonne a chunk of human meat from the body of the first healthy human carcass killed by accident, that they could dispose of as they chose. I cooked it in Neuilly, at the villa of the Baron Gabriel des Hons, who was my translator. I ate a lot of it in the presence of witnesses"[27]

Here Seabrook parts with virtually every reporter on the cannibal experience. While some have tasted such things, recounting the tale in horror or in expectation of a fascinated audience (or both), Seabrook saw that this experience was limited by its cultural context, specifically the cooking itself.

Writing up the experience, as if it had happened in Africa, he needed to isolate the part of the meal that was truly unique. It required something that would provide a fixed point from which all his observations could be measured.

He knew what he had to do.

His writing hesitated at this point, as if at a threshold to a room from which, once entered, there could be no return. If ignorance is bliss, there can be no return to the Garden of Eden once one steps outside.

He was a gentleman, and he wanted to give his reader one last chance to avoid taking that step. "The raw meat, " he wrote,

"...in appearance, was firm, slightly coarse-textured rather than smooth. In raw texture, both to the eye and to the touch, it resembled good beef. In color, however, it was slightly less red than beef. But it was reddish. It was not pinkish or grayish like mutton or pork. Through the red lean ran fine whitish fibers, interlacing, seeming to be stringy rather than fatty, suggesting that it might be tough. The solid fat was faintly yellow, as the fat of beef and mutton is. This yellow tinge was very faint, but it was not clear white as pork fat is.

In smell it had what I can only describe as the familiar, characteristic smell of any good fresh meat of the larger domestic animals"[28]<

Preliminary observations completed, Seabrook was ready to continue the experiment. Once again, he tried to limit the variables that could only obscure the facts he sought.

"I had determined to prepare the steak and roast in the simplest manner, as nearly as possible as we prepare meat at home. The small roast was spitted, since an oven was out of the question, and after it had been cooking for a while I set about grilling the steak. I tried to do it exactly as we do at home. It took longer, but that may have been partly because of the difference between gas flame and wood coals."[29]

He did not say how he determined the cooking time -- and his perception of elapsed time might have been altered by the extreme nature of the psychological moment.

His cooking observations continued:

"When the roast began to brown and the steak to turn blackish on the outside, I cut into them to have a look at the partially cooked interior. It had turned quite definitely paler than beef would turn. It was turning grayish as veal or lamb would, rather than dark reddish as a beef-steak turns. The fat was sizzling, becoming tender and yellower. Beyond what I have told, there was nothing special or unusual. It was nearly done and it looked and smelled good to eat."[30]

I suspect that readers at the time were bothered by the very thing that fascinates us: Seabrook's logical and dispassionate exploration and exposition of a subject that most people consider to be the stuff of nightmares. An editorial in the Montgomery Advertiser summed up the general response:

"It is not agreeable to think that an intelligent, educated member of the white race and of the American nation, has voluntarily descended to a scale lower than that observed by these lowly peoples. And not the least repugnant feature of this indescribably sordid affair is the levity, almost the pride, with which Seabrook has recounted to the representatives of the press his adventure in a new 'experience.'"[31]

For all that, this was no monster, devoid of human feelings. Seabrook responded, with justifiable annoyance,

"Those who might have forgiven me for eating a [black man] couldn't forgive me for eating with one. [italics Seabrook's][32]

This was a sensitive, intelligent person who had willingly put himself in one of the most psychologically challenging positions imaginable.

"I sat down to it with my bottle of wine, a bowl of rice, salt and pepper at hand. I had thought about this and planned it for a long time, and now I was going to do it. I was going to do it, furthermore -- I had promised and told myself -- with a completely casual, open, and objective mind. But I was soon to discover that I had bluffed and deceived myself a little in pretending so detached an attitude. It was with, or rather after, the first mouthful, that I discovered there had been an unconscious bravado in me, a small bluff-hidden unconscious dread. For my first despicable reaction -- so strong that it took complete precedence over any satisfaction or any fine points of gastronomic shading -- was simply a feeling of thankful and immense relief. At any rate, it was perfectly good to eat! At any rate, it had no weird, startling, or unholy flavor. It was good to eat, and despite all the intelligent, academic detachment with which I had thought I was approaching the experience, my poor cowardly and prejudiced subconscious real self sighed with relief and patted itself on the back."[33]

So, he did it.

Without any external compunction, no famine, shipwreck, siege or plane crash, he actually became a cannibal. This was almost fifty years before William Arens' assertion that there never was a reliable eyewitness to any act of non-emergency cannibalism. Can a more reliable eye-witness be imagined? It doesn't seem likely. Still, we are left with that nagging question: What does it taste like?

Seabrook was not finished with us, yet:

"I took a big swallow of wine, a helping of rice, and thoughtfully ate half the steak. And as I ate, I knew with increasing certainty what it was like. It was like good, fully developed veal, not young, but not yet beef. It was very definitely like that, and it was not like any other meat I had ever tasted. It was so nearly like good, fully developed veal that I think no person with a palate of ordinary, normal sensitiveness could distinguish it from veal. It was mild, good meat with no other sharply defined or highly characteristic taste such as for instance, goat, high game, and pork have. The steak was slightly tougher than prime veal, a little stringy, but not too tough or stringy to be agreeably edible. The roast, from which I cut and ate a central slice, was tender, and in color, texture, smell as well as taste, strengthened my certainty that of all the meats we habitually know, veal is the one meat to which this meat is accurately comparable. As for any other special taste or odor of a sort which would be surprising and make a person who had tasted it not knowing exclaim, 'What is this?' it had absolutely none. And as for the 'long pig' legend, repeated in a thousand stories and recopied in a hundred books, it was totally, completely false.

It gives me great comfort here to be able to write thus categorically. A small helping of the stew might likewise have been veal stew, but the overabundance of red pepper was such that it conveyed no fine shading to a white palate; so I was glad I had tried it in the simpler ways."[34]

Interestingly enough, when word of Seabrook's deception by the GuerÚ leaked out, the press had a field day with the news. He, of course, could not reveal his real supplier of human flesh, so he had to endure the laughter of all France.

Almost all. "Daisy Fellowes" (a prominent socialite of the day), he wrote, "came to see me one day with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., and said, 'It was just too bad, you poor credulous little boy -- and with all the trouble you took. I think you deserve to know what human flesh really tastes like, so I am giving you a dinner next week in my garden.

...out on the lawn marched the major-domo followed by lackeys in knee-breeches and white gloves, bearing a charcoal brazier, silver dishes, and a platter of meat cut up to be grilled.

We ate it and liked it. It looked and tasted exactly like fully developed veal or fine young baby beef. In other words, it looked and tasted exactly like human flesh." [italics Seabrook's][35]

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Teh Digital Dragon

Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 1888

PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2006 9:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am a very silly person.

I read that expecting to have my morbid curiosity satisfied...only to realise that I don't actually remember what most meats taste like. Or at least not vividly enough for the comparison to veal be much use to me.

Interesting article nonetheless.
"You cannot run away from a weakness; you must sometimes fight it out or perish. And if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?"
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2006 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i don't think i've ever had veal, so i couldn't make the comparison.

seabrook sounds like a fascinating guy, though - but i just did a quick search, and i can't find any of his books.

<edit> ooooo - i found him at the library! so i'm requesting "magic island" and "jungle ways".

just what i need - more stuff to read.
aka: neverscared!
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Cap'n Lazarus

Joined: 09 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2006 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"If the Juju didn't mean for people to eat people, why'd He make people of meat?" Flanders and Swann
A government's principal occupation lies in curtailing and eliminating the natural freedoms of its citizens and then flimflamming them into paying for the service. ....Thorax
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