News is filtering through from South Africa that a cannibalism ring has been uncovered. Of the many rings reported by the news channels, cannibalism is way, way ahead of Saturn’s, Olympic and a-roses in terms of entertainment value. Evidence is relatively strong, given a verbal confession from the resident witch doctor, a decapitated body and eight ears (ongoing investigations into whether an eight-eared individual or several normal heads were harvested). All of which leads us to only one question – is eating human flesh kosher?
Inevitably, there seems to be no definitive answer. The usual rules of only permitting the eating of correctly slaughtered animals which are cud-eating and cloven hooved is the first port of call. Without inspecting their feet, this would actually allow for the consumption of Sir Alex Ferguson, Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis - footballing heart attacks on legs who positively adore the chewing of cud on the touchline. Clearly, like a South African medic, we must dig deeper.
Although murder is, as you might imagine, forbidden, what occurs to a corpse or entrails found lying around for all and sundry to come across is more complicated. Eating placenta is either completely off the menu or fair game depending on your favourite sacred text. Eating donkey placenta is fine in any circumstance; having a nibble on an incorrectly slaughtered cud-chewer is a no-no. Humans as a species are something of a tricky proposition as they aren’t in any way considered meat. What we do know is that thorough preparation is required as the scoffing of blood is not allowed, even in kosher cases. Snag your gum on a pasty? Any bloodied part of the Cornish treat must be immediately discarded, followed by frenzied hail Marys (look, I’m not researching everything for you).
However, some Rabbis, when questioned by similarly curious folk, have conceded that in a life or death situation, the survival of a human able to continue the teachings of God versus starving in front of a slap up dinner may be overlooked. Judaism’s brilliant for making stuff up as you go along. Are we missing out though? Is it a tasty treat or pot noodle for nutters?
Last year, BBC science editor, Greg Foot, volunteered to go under the knife and have a slice of himself. Though not in itself illegal, cannibalism paid for by the licence fee was thought better of, so they cooked a bit of his thigh and smelled it instead. “It’s really meaty,” revealed foot. £147 a year for that insight.
More dedicated gourmands have gone the whole hog, as it were. Vilified people; pariahs; baddies. Damn it, they were hungry! Armin Meiwes recommended sautéing a bloke steak with salt, pepper, garlic and nutmeg, whilst serving it alongside sprouts, potato croquettes and a green pepper sauce.
“The flesh tastes like pork, a little bit more bitter, stronger. It tastes quite good.”
Not the best review but then I’m not mad on pork at the best of times. Presumably you can slice it thinner and cure it – I refuse to believe any kind of bacon isn’t magnificent.
Whilst visiting Western Africa in the 1920s, William Seabrook, whom the crisps aren’t named after, had the following review of his dinner at the local caff:
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.
It has proved difficult to find any reports of cannibalism being anything other than a splendid gastronomic treat. See here, some bon mots from people eaters across the ages:
“Tastes like the burned end of a nice pork roast”
““It had this flavor of wild sheep, if you take a sheep that goes in the mountains and eats mushrooms. It was goaty.”
“The king of steaks.”
"It melted in my mouth like raw tuna in a sushi restaurant."
"I only eat the parts with muscles, particularly thighs and calves, which are my favourite. I make a very tasty stew with the tongue and I use the eyes to make a nutritious and healthy soup."
If all this tells us anything, which it doesn’t, surely it’s this – shouldn’t we all just get along?