“I made up my mind before leaving New York that when it came to the subject of cannibals I would either write nothing whatever about them, or I would know what I was writing about.
A friend obtained for me from a hospital interne at the Sorbonne a chunk of human meat from the body of the first healthy human carcass killed by accident, that they could dispose of as they chose. I cooked it in Neuilly, at the villa of the Baron Gabriel des Hons, who was my translator. I ate a lot of it in the presence of witnesses.
The raw meat was in appearance firm, slightly coarse-textured rather than smooth. In raw texture, both to the eye and to the touch, it resembled good beef. In color, however, it was slightly less red than beef. But it was reddish. It was not pinkish or grayish like mutton or pork. Through the red lean ran fine whitish fibers, interlacing, seeming to be stringy rather than fatty, suggesting that it might be tough. The solid fat was faintly yellow, as the fat of beef and mutton is. This yellow tinge was very faint, but it was not clear white as pork fat is. In smell it had what I can only describe as the familiar, characteristic smell of any good fresh meat of the larger domestic animals.
I had determined to prepare the steak and roast in the simplest manner, as nearly as possible as we prepare meat at home. The small roast was spitted, since an oven was out of the question, and after it had been cooking for a while I set about grilling the steak. I tried to do it exactly as we do at home. It took longer, but that may have been partly because of the difference between gas flame and wood coals.
When the roast began to brown and the steak to turn blackish on the outside, I cut into them to have a look at the partially cooked interior. It had turned quite definitely paler than beef would turn. It was turning grayish as veal or lamb would, rather than dark reddish as a beef-steak turns. The fat was sizzling, becoming tender and yellower. Beyond what I have told, there was nothing special or unusual. It was nearly done and it looked and smelled good to eat.
I sat down to it with my bottle of wine, a bowl of rice, salt and pepper at hand. I had thought about this and planned it for a long time, and now I was going to do it. I was going to do it, furthermore—I had promised and told myself—with a completely casual, open, and objective mind. But I was soon to discover that I had bluffed and deceived myself a little in pretending so detached an attitude. It was with, or rather after, the first mouthful, that I discovered there had been an unconscious bravado in me, a small bluff-hidden unconscious dread. For my first despicable reaction—so strong that it took complete precedence over any satisfaction or any fine points of gastronomic shading—was simply a feeling of thankful and immense relief. At any rate, it was perfectly good to eat! At any rate, it had no weird, startling, or unholy flavor. It was good to eat, and despite all the intelligent, academic detachment with which I had thought I was approaching the experience, my poor cowardly and prejudiced subconscious real self sighed with relief and patted itself on the back.
I took a big swallow of wine, a helping of rice, and thoughtfully ate half the steak. And as I ate, I knew with increasing certainty what it was like. 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. As for any other special taste or odor of a sort which would be surprising and make a person who had tasted it not knowing exclaim, ‘What is this?’ it had absolutely none.”
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