Thursday, January 22, 2009

Serving Man

Those of you who remember the old Twilight Zone know, of course, that Serving Man was revealed to be an alien cookbook at the very end of one of the best episodes. That ending was a cultural shocker even to us old folks who grew up in the era of cannibal and missionary jokes like this one.

"Two cannibals meet one day...The first cannibal says, "You know, I just can't seem to get a tender Missionary. I've baked them, I've roasted them, I've stewed them, I've barbecued them, I've tried every sort of marinade. Just can't seem to get them tender."

The second cannibal asks, "What kind of Missionary do you use?"

The reply, "You know, the ones that hang out at that place at the bend of the river. They have those brown cloaks with a rope around their waist and they're sort of bald on top with a funny ring of hair on their heads."

"Ah, Ha!" the second cannibal replies, "No wonder--those are fryers!"

As it turns out the cannibals in the joke were pretty ignorant, or perhaps they didn't live in Fiji. For yesterday I came across a reference at about page 4,800 of the continuing Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin saga I've been reading that provided a perfect solution for their dilemma when Dr. Maturin mentioned a plant the British naturalists named Solanum Anthropophagorum which sent me to the internet to do a few clicks.

We think of cannibals as primitives. But it turns out they were pretty sophisticated, at least in Fiji, where they had special recipes, special utensils and even maintained a special plant for their occasional feasts on so called "long pig". Solanum Anthropophagorum turns out to be a real plant which was purposely cultivated near the special long houses where Fijians ate their battle prizes. The leaves were exclusively used as wrappers for roasting and the tomato like berries were used to make a special sauce. Google helpfully digitized the botanical volume where you can see it's picture if you page up after going to the link below; and you can read a lot more in English about the plant's uses if you page down to below the Latin. If you spend a while trying to puzzle out the Latin, using the English translation as a sort of Rosetta Stone, you have much too much time on your hands.,M1

Why I was moved to post on this matter is a very good question. Why you should not google "long pig" and then click on the link to The Church of Euthanasia is one very good answer to that question. The universe has been said to be not only stranger than we imagine but stranger than we can imagine. That goes double or triple for the internet. There's a lot of stuff way out there that you just don't want to know.

Meanwhile, back on real planet Earth and still on the subject of why I came to write about cannibalism, I don't yet fully have my mind around the fact that National Review, which is supposed to be a conservative magazine, has suddenly changed its comfortably musty look and feel by adding color photos. As is my custom I opened the latest issue to the last page to read Mark Steyn's Happy Warrior column and was greeted by a color picture of Frank Sinatra in the middle of the page. Curiously, Steyn's column, adorned with an unwanted color photo, is in some measure a rant against change. After reading the Steyn piece I turned to Richard Brookhiser's City Desk column, next to last at the back of the magazine, and found a photo of a palm tree, again in color. That got me thinking about botany and Doctor Maturin. And that led me by a roundabout route to The Church of Euthanasia, to which I now wish I had never gone, for now I will always know that the author of that website is out there, somewhere.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of cannablism, after watching the movie Sweeney Todd, I had a debate with someone as to the flavor of human... needless to say a google search assured us that it is a remarkably flavored meat; sweet apparently, but dependent on the race, gender, and age.


Sully said...

We enjoyed the play Sweeney Todd but haven't seen the movie.

As to the flavor of human I would think that connoisseurs would have good taste. And, I can't help myself, those who are well hung would not have a gamy flavor.

Anonymous said...

If they turn roosters into capons to improve flavor, wouldn't the same hold true for humans? :)