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A BRIEF HISTORY OF CANNIBALISM
Cannibalism, n.: the practice of those who eat their own kind.
Current slang for cannibalism: man munching; slurping the sapiens; doing the body-cavity search and snack; the full Dahmer; Tysonizing; the stalk, stab, and slurp; eating out; Donner dining.
Anthropologists believe that the first recorded act of cannibalism occurred in the South of France in approximately 9500 B.C. I have often thought that B.C. should stand for "before cannibalism," but at present, my suggestions to the calendar people have gone unanswered. A series of stick figure drawings in the Lascaux caves pictures a family of five, emaciated, staring at empty food bowls and afraid to leave their cave to hunt because of a sabertooth tiger lurking outside. The next series of drawings pictures a happy family of four, with full bellies, and in the corner, near the illustrator's symbol, are the bones of the smallest member of the cave family.
Since that moment some 11,500 years ago, which not only is the first recorded act of cannibalism but also marks the dawn of gourmet French dining, there have been many great cannibal moments. At the risk of showing off my vast knowledge of history, before setting the table, let us take a moment to study those who have come before us.
THE FIVE GREATEST MOMENTS IN CANNIBAL HISTORY
(as voted by a panel of cannibal chefs, historians, and fans)
1 THE URUGUAY RUGBY TEAM PLANE CRASH OF 1972
This not only became the inspiration for two movies, it introduced the concept of gourmet airline food.
2 THE DONNER PARTY, FEBRUARY 1847
America's first recorded acts of cannibalism. The Donner Party, stranded in the Sierra Nevadas, stayed alive by eating the flesh of the deceased. Despite claims by Clarence Birdseye, many consider this to also mark the invention of frozen food.
3 ALFERD PACKER
Just as Edison's lightbulb was the result of a mistake in the lab, just as the invention of the Post-it Note was the result of a chemist's failure to invent a supersticky glue, the discovery of Rocky Mountain oysters came about because of a colossal miscalculation by Alferd Packer. Rather than wait until July for a trek through the Rockies, Alferd accidentally or hungrily left Salt Lake City with five gold prospectors in February of 1874. Two months later, Alferd Packer arrived alone in Gunnison, Colorado, packing his five friends' cash, clothes, and thirty extra pounds.
A little-known fact: Alferd had tremors in his hands; thus, he is credited with being the inventor of Shake 'n Bake.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I find it fascinating that so many of the great moments in cannibal history involve snow. The Andes Mountains, the Sierras, the Rockies, the siege of Leningrad. I guess cold weather brings out the appetite in -- and for -- people.
4 RICHARD PARKER, JULY 25, 1884
If it were not for Richard Parker, cruise passengers would not have the twenty-four-hour gourmet dining they enjoy on the Princess, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean lines. Richard was the English cabin boy from the SS Mignonette who became a five-course meal for three hungry cannibals adrift in a lifeboat for nineteen days in the South Atlantic.
Apparently, they had no qualms about eating him because they were English. Those bastards will even eat boiled mutton.
5 JEFFREY DAHMER
If Wolfgang Puck is considered the founder of California nouveau cuisine, then Jeffrey Dahmer deserves credit as the man who revitalized cannibal cooking. One of the many negative aspects of the sixties "Make love not war" anti-Vietnam philosophy was the backlash against killing and eating people. Vegetarianism was in, eating beef was out, and chowing down on human beef was even worse. To illustrate, think of what happened to the music group the Buoys. Do you remember their hit song "Timothy"? It was a great song based on the Richard Parker story, transferred to a coal mine, which described in loving detail the cannibalizing of Timothy. Just a beautiful song. But did the peace freaks in the music industry let the Buoys ever record another song? Have you seen them in concert? Do you even see them on a VHI Where Are They Now? special. I think not. They disappeared from view as if they had been eaten alive.
In short, if it were not for Jeffrey Dahmer and his wacky Wisconsin love life, cannibalism would never have reemerged in the American mainstream. Thank God those midwesterners love their beef.
THE FIVE WORST MOMENTS IN CANNIBAL HISTORY
1 JEFFREY DAHMER
Jeffrey makes this list, too. What kind of cook lets his meat develop freezer burn?
2 MIKE TYSON
I think Mike Tyson is crazy. Not for biting Evander Holyfield's ear. For spitting it out.
3 MARV ALBERT
Did Marv have the perfect chance to make a great meal out of that Virginia woman? Yesss! Did he do anything more than leave evidence on her back? Nooo! What, was he on a diet? To me, that is more embarrassing than the fact that a nice Jewish boy wears a pink dress, high heels and bad toupee.
4 DR. KEVORKIAN
The man has assisted in 130 suicides but all he does is take the bodies to a motel room and call the police. Doesn't he know there are starving people in Kosovo?
5 JOHN WAYNE GACY
The man kills thirty-three people and leaves them under the porch uneaten. What a clown!
A WORD ABOUT ANDREI CHIKATILO
Cannibal fans have been arguing over Andrei since his arrest in 1990. Is Andrei a cannibal or just a serial killer? As Bill James would say about baseball players, first let's look at the record, then look at what his peers said about him. He was responsible for fifty-two killings, and in almost every instance his victims' necks were bitten and sex organs were mutilated and munched on. But did he actually enjoy eating them? Did he take the time to prepare and present his food? Did he ever share his table with cannibal friends? In every case, the answer is no. He killed and ate out of anger, not out of the love of food. Moreover, those who knew him best, the people of the Ukraine, refer to him in every newspaper report as the "Shelter Belt Killer," not the "Shelter Belt Cannibal." In short, the man is no cannibal, he is just fond of giving fatal hickeys.
But this is not a history text, nor is it an anthropology treatise; it is a cookbook and a celebration of a joyous way of life. So rather than explore the cannibal cultures of the past and present with text, let us understand them the way God intended -- through their recipes. But before dismembering and dining, we must prepare.
Copyright © 1999 by Wild Bronco Productions, Inc.