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.

34 thoughts on “NPF: TASTES LIKE CHICKEN”

  • Forgetful Man says:

    wow. that's nauseating just to read. didn't realize i had such an aversion until now. THANKS GIN AND TACOS!

    nice to know donkey tastes so good, however. but maybe Labouchere was an ass man to begin with *rimshot* Heyaah!

  • Seabrook seems to be getting more and more enthusiastic about the culinary experience as he describes it. By the end you almost expect to read, "Yep, it was good. DAMN good. REALLY, REALLY good, quite yummy, I'm not kidding. Matter of fact, wouldn't mind some more. Get me more. MORE! FLESH! FLESH! BRAINSSSS…."

  • HoosierPoli says:

    I love how his description is just so EARNEST. Like people are going to start agreeing with him any day now.

  • Monkey Business says:

    Goddammit, now my friends that read this site are going to try and secure me in a box and force feed me cheese fries or something.

  • You know, after reading Stranger in a Strange Land, I thought I was over my societally-ingrained aversion to cannibalism. NUPE. I won't be eating today… *barf*

  • @displaced Capitalist:

    Insects are food …. and shellfish are insects!

    I cannot eat crabs or lobsters and not think I'm eating giant sea spiders and sea roaches. Even shrimp kinda gross me out but I can't put an insect equivalent on a shrimp.

  • Long pig

    The flesh of a man intended for eating.

    Derived from 'puaa oa', a phrase originating in the Marquesan language to euphemistically refer to cannibalism.

    The phrase first appeared in Fredrick O

  • Little bugs like ants and termites are pretty good pan- fried and seasoned. They taste sorta like popcorn.
    I could even go for scorpions or larger spiders if they are cut up and the squishy guts are removed. They taste a lot like shrimp I hear.
    I draw the line at people… unless it was prepared a la Soylent Verde.

  • Elder Futhark says:

    Oh, settle the fuck down.

    If and when the Big Filter arrives, every single one of you will eat me and like it.

  • Read the book, "Alive," that details the suvivial methods of that soccer team. Unbelievable stuff. By the time they got off that mountain, they were using their dead brethren's heads as serving bowls.

  • 'In the film noir light and shadows of a classic "Twilight Zone" episode from the early '60s, a woman holding a book shouts a frantic warning to a man entering a spaceship for a journey to an alien planet: "It's a cookbook!"

    The aliens had ended war, poverty and hunger on Earth, and told humans the basis for this altruism was in the book, titled "To Serve Man," which was not yet translated from their language.

    Then the aliens, whose leader was played by Richard Kiel, started inviting humans to their planet. People lined up to go like sheep at a slaughterhouse. The hero, played by Lloyd Bochner, is forced into the spaceship after hearing the shout and the ship lifts off to serve man — as an alien's dinner.'

    (c) 2002 by William F. Wu

    I remember seeing this one. It was indeed a classic.


  • Monkey Business says:

    @Southern Beale: Sweet, more for the rest of us. I have no problem eating sea bugs, because they're delicious. Land bugs, yes, because they're tiny and gross.

  • Paul W. Luscher says:

    Is this to prep us for what we're gonna need to do once the Repubs and the plutocrats win their war on working people?

  • TheMightyTrowel says:

    Actually, a high society dinner party menu from that same siege surfaced a couple of years ago in britain (via the excellent TV show QI) demonstrating that while the lower classes may have subsisted on rats, the upper classes were raiding the Paris zoo for elephants, kangaroos and other exotic beasties.

  • "To Serve Man,"
    That's my very favorite Twilight Zone.

    I once had a boyfriend from the Philippines who insisted that rat was delicious. But it had to be field rat, he'd always caution. Those city rats are no good because they eat trash.

    The kitten smothered with onions makes me very, very sad. I do not think I could kill and eat a kitten (or a cat…or a donkey….or a rat….). No matter how hungry I was. Hell, I can't bear to kill a lobster, what with the way they look at me with their big black eyes…

  • I was in China once at a all you can eat Brazillian steakhouse when the gaucho (well, he was wearing jeans, a striped shirt, and a green straw hat at least) offered me something from a spit. After taking a few bites my girlfriend inquired "is that baby bird?". I looked at it closely and said "yep, damn good, too".

    I'd eat people.

  • Let's see what we can discern from the news lately.

    The value of people does not come from their inherent being nor their work. It comes from their accumulated wealth.

    It is important that we stop mass educating people.

    People taste good.

    I just don't like where that's headed… veal? People taste like veal?


  • So "To serve man" was originally a Twilight Zone episode? All these years I thought that segment on the first Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" show was an original creation. Oh well, it was still very, very well done ("Your wife … is quite a dish … ") …

  • "I draw the line at people." I lived in Thailand for two years back in the 70s (memory: man roasting huge rat on a spit) and ate my share of ants. I drew the line at rice bugs.

  • Dog and horse, I can attest, are nice if prepared well. There are actually a lot of foods I'd try for novelty's sake, and after due consideration I think human might be one of those. As long as it was grown organic?

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