Nobody knows more about human flesh than the people (and robots) who’ve tried it
We should probably get used to the idea that, at some point, we’ll have to eat each other. Whatever type of disaster it is that ends up befalling humanity, it’ll probably (a) be soon and (b) lead to a reasonable amount of buddy-scoffin’.
The idea of chowing down on some dude raises lots of questions, one of which must surely be, what will it taste like? The last thing you want to do is butcher your pal then sit there, blood-soaked and tear-stained, wondering whether you are still even a human or merely a monster, and then be underwhelmed by the flavour. Real insult-to-injury stuff, both for you and the friend you’ve slain.
Here are various verdicts of what different people-eaters have found. We’ve expunged most of the more disgusting details (a lot of cannibals are quite into the, uh, underpants areas) but this is still potentially an upsetting read, so be warned.
Like veal, says the explorer
William Seabrook (nothing to do with the crisps) claimed in his 1930 book Jungle Ways that, on travels to West Africa, he had eaten human flesh with cannibals in the Guero tribe. He later admitted that he’d made this up, but also insisted that he’d convinced a Parisian medical student to sneak him some flesh, which he had then cooked and eaten himself, so his description still stood.
“It was like good, fully developed veal, not young, but not yet beef” he wrote. “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.”
Seabrook was an interesting chap, an alcoholic occultist and adventurer who divided his time between mental institutions and working in the advertising industry.
Porky, says the robot
In 2006, researchers at NEC System technologies and Mie University created what they called an electromechanical sommelier, a robot created to identify things like meats, wines and cheeses.
When a journalist put his hand into the robot’s mouth, it identified bacon, while a cameraman doing the same was identified as prosciutto.
Sweet and tender, says the vengeful wife
Omaima Nelson is a former model who killed her husband Bill in 1991, allegedly in self-defence. She is then accused of castrating him and cooking his head, hands and ribs.
The head and hands were to get rid of his face and fingerprints, but the ribs? While she later denied eating any parts of her husband, on her arrest she is said to have told a psychiatrist “I did his ribs just like in a restaurant. It’s so sweet, it’s so delicious. I like mine tender.” About 130lbs of Bill’s flesh was never found. Nelson will next be eligible for parole in 2026.
Quite good, says the German maniac
Armin Miewes made headlines around the world when it was revealed he had met a man online who wanted to be eaten, and eaten him. In a German TV interview broadcast from prison, Miewes, who ate over 20kgs of computer engineer Bernd Brandes over a period of months by freezing it in meal-sized portions, described the meat as a little tough.
“I sauteed the steak of Bernd, with salt, pepper, garlic and nutmeg. I had it with Princess croquettes, Brussels sprouts and a green pepper sauce. The first bite was of course a peculiar, indefinable feeling at first because I had yearned for that for 30 years, that this inner connection would be made perfect through this flesh. The flesh tastes like pork, a little bit more bitter, stronger. It tastes quite good.”
Miewes is currently serving a life sentence.
Like raw tuna, says the total rotter
Issei Sagawa is one of the worst men alive, a murderer and cannibal who was deemed unfit to stand trial by reason of insanity, so only ever spent two years behind bars for the 1981 murder of Dutch student Renée Hartevelt.
He then made a living as, among other things, a restaurant critic. He has described the meat as “melting in my mouth like raw tuna in a sushi restaurant.” He noted that “Human meat is odorless. I actually believe that human meat is the tastiest of all meats. It doesn’t have any of that gamey animal smell. When I ate some more a couple of days later, just before I got arrested, the meat had become sweeter and it tasted great.”
Very palatable, says, uh, just an interesting dude really
Dick Manley, as previously featured on this site for having a cool name, made a casserole from his wife’s placenta – the most ethical, non-wasteful way of tasting human flesh there is.
It’s documented in a lot of detail on his site (probably not one to read at lunchtime), where he notes that the casserole had “a light liver taste, very palatable”, went down well with his vegan friends and that both of his older children asked for seconds.
Like burnt ends, says the murderous bastard
American serial killer Arthur Shawcross murdered at least thirteen people, eating parts of some of them, and has over two centuries left on his sentence. When documentary-maker Katharine English interviewed him in 2001, he described the flavour.
“When was the last time you had nice roast pork? If you take a fresh ham, a roast pork, and the butt-end where it’s a little burnt, that’s what you taste like.”