Thanks to an appearance on Boing Boing, this odd piece from an 1870 London Daily News report has been making the rounds on the interwebs. It appears that the British journalist Henry Labouchere was in Paris during the siege that eventually brought the Franco-Prussian War to conclusion. Fortunately this war resolved tensions between France and Germany once and for all.
Parisians, like many peoples subjected to wartime siege tactics, discovered that food runs out alarmingly quickly. During the Civil War residents of Vicksburg were reduced to eating wallpaper paste by the Union siege. In Paris they may not have been eating mucilage but by no means were they eating the usual delicacies of French cooking. The menu shifted from pork, veal, fish, and fowl to…more exotic fare. Labouchere offered a culinary review of the bill of fare:
* Horse: “eaten in the place of beef … a little sweeter … but in other respects much like it”
* Cat: “something between rabbit and squirrel, with a flavor all its own”
* Donkey: “delicious — in color like mutton, firm and savory”
* Kittens: “either smothered in onions or in a ragout they are excellent”
* Rat: “excellent — something between frog and rabbit”
* Spaniel: “something like lamb, but I felt like a cannibal”
I can see why this gained traction around the internet as a news-of-the-weird item, but let's up the ante a bit. I am reminded of another journalist, William Seabrook, who had traveled extensively among the less developed areas of the world in the early 20th Century. Along the way he encountered many indigenous peoples who practiced cannibalism and he developed something of a morbid (*rimshot*) curiosity. He asked a friend at a medical school in Paris (side note: What the fuck, Paris?) to provide him with a piece of a recently deceased man who died in an accident (side side note: If you are a medical student and someone asks this of you, do not say yes). After consuming the meat in a variety of preparations, he reported:
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.
So, yeah. Keep that in mind the next time the Channel 58 Local News does an exposé on designer shampoos.