I don’t think I ever said “cannibal” in response to the eternal question of what I wanted to be when I grew up, much to the relief of my mother, but when I was little, I used to think being a cannibal wouldn’t be too bad. I figured human flesh would probably taste like bread. I blame church for this, telling me I’m eating Jesus’s flesh when all I taste is the same white bread my mom would never buy for my sandwiches because we are a wheat bread family. I’d sit on the pew, letting the bread grow soggy in my mouth until I’d wash it down with the little cup of water I knew was on the way. Maybe if I let it sit there long enough, it would turn to skin, but it never did.
If I’m listing reasons for why I thought human flesh would taste like bread, I must also cite the fact I was called “Wonder Bread” once or twice because of my admittedly pallid complexion. “Pallid” must be the perfect word to describe my skin tone, because when my seventh grade English class first learned it as a vocabulary word, the entire class, in unison, looked over at me. I’m sure after all the attention was directed my way, “flushed” would have been a better description of my face. I’ve never seen bread blush, but some part of me associated flesh with bread for the longest time. Another part of me believed “town drunk” and “protester” and “cannibal” were all considered legitimate occupations, and eating bread all the time didn’t sound like too shabby of a livelihood. After all, sinking into a loaf of fresh, warm, buttered bread is one of the greatest experiences man can have in this mortal existence.
So when I learned that human flesh actually tastes more like veal or pork than bread, you can understand why I lost interest. Pork chops are one of my least favorite dishes that Mom tends to make on Sundays, and they always have been. She makes them too dry for my taste, which is nothing against her cooking, but rather against my habit of never putting sauces or dressings on anything. I was at least a teenager before I would put pasta sauce on my spaghetti willingly, and I still never put dressings on my salads. I’d probably enjoy these dishes more if I ate them correctly, but some primal part of me refuses to join civilization and enjoy ranch dressing.
Not only am I not a fan of the reported taste of the “long pork” or any sauces that would make it taste better, but there’s also that whole kuru thing. You know, the neurodegenerative disorder you get from eating other humans, especially their brain. I know it has to do with “abnormally folded prion proteins” (thanks, Wikipedia), but part of me wonders if we don’t get sick from eating all the dark thoughts housed in people’s brainboxes that they shove into the deepest recesses of their mind. Eating that stuff can’t be good for a person.
Yet some people still argue that cannibalism, so long as the “subject” is healthy, is not any worse for someone than eating any other animal. I’ve even come across an article called “Butchering the Human Carcass for Human Consumption,” written by a “Bob Arson”, which has step-by step instructions for “[breaking] down the human body from the full figure into serviceable choice cuts of meat.” It also has a recipe for a marinade, which sounds like it’s made from every ingredient in your spice cupboard, as well as “3 dashes savory ashes from one fine thin joint.” I have not tested the tastiness of the sauce for three reasons: first, it contains more than one ingredient it would be illegal for me to buy; second, I do not have a prepared carcass to test it on, nor do I want that opportunity; and third, I’m not a big sauce fan in general, as previously mentioned. The recipe is hosted on the Church of Euthanasia’s website, and is listed under “sermons.” Google has recorded me visiting their website at least six different times over the past four years. I have no doubt I’ve been added to some sort of watchlist just for visiting so frequently. For this reason and many others that are far more obvious, I must say I do not recommend the recipe to anyone. Not that I think anyone needs this non-recommendation. The vast majority of the population of Earth consider it taboo and disgusting to even think about cannibalism at all.
It’s such a globally taboo topic that many writers during the fictitious travelogue era would insert cannibals into their stories as a way of othering native island dwellers to a point where they no longer resemble humans as we know them. Cannibalism was, and still is a means of determining a loss of humanity. Cannibalistic serial killers—from Jeffrey Dahmer to Stephen Griffiths—must have lost their humanity long before beginning to eat people, because only an inhuman monster would eat human flesh, right?
Well, normal people do it constantly. Not to the same degree, of course, but every time you swallow, you ingest a little bit of your own flesh in the form of loose cheek cells. Some people eat their own fingernails or the bothersome skin around them. Most people, when faced with a quick-but-bloody paper cut, react by sticking the wound in their mouth to get the blood off. This auto-cannibalism and even auto-vampirism happens all around us all the time. Some argue that this isn’t true cannibalism, but I think those people are just afraid of the taboo—they don’t like being labelled a cannibal of any caliber. It makes them feel sick. But those same people might then go to church on Sunday, after a hearty meal of marinated pork chops, and seek their peace with God while they
Eat the juicy flesh of Jesus; drink his fruity blood.
A/N: I wrote this personal essay as an assignment for my creative nonfiction class. The assignment was to write an essay after one of Montaigne's. The essay I chose was "Of Cannibals."