Carnal Panacea in a World Gone Mad


SOUTH KOREA — I once saw the Faces of Death where Dr. Francis B. Gross goes undercover in a cannibalistic cult: Gross is surrounded by devotees as he positions himself near the pallid, lifeless body that is the focus of this crowd's fetish. Via time-lapse montage we see the cult members tear the body apart as they devour it, smearing each other with copious amounts of blood, working themselves into sexual ecstasy. Soon the body is cast aside and the members throw themselves into a writhing, blood-soaked orgy.

Such a scene provides food for thought. Where do you draw the boundaries on what animals you will eat? I have tried a few bizarre things, but no people yet, as far as I'm aware.

I do know from a three-month stint of vegetarianism that meat is where it's at. I've heard the gauchos roaming the pampas of Argentina believe an all-meat diet is the ideal of healthy nutrition, and that they rely almost exclusively on steak. What an inspiration.

In my quest for Meatopia, I have tried a few interesting creatures. I remember smearing teriyaki sauce all over a rattlesnake that my roommate killed in the yard with a shovel, then laid on the barbecue. That thing was tough — its heart was still pulsing an hour after we finished eating its body.

I had a bit of ostrich and crocodile at an Australian-style barbecue. Nothing too spectacular; just a couple notches on the belt in my quest to taste the breadth of the Animal Kingdom.

In Bangkok, besides the who-knows-what-all-man-woman-or-beast in the makeshift sausages sold from the stalls along the grimy streets, I was privy to a cauldron of rat stew shared with members of a hill tribe. The other tourist, probably wisely, refrained. Rat is, well, black, bitter, stringy and slimy. There's nothing like biting into a chunk of rat skull and pulling little rat teeth from your mouth. With some foods, once is really enough.

I'd like to try deer again, though. My only opportunity was in college, when a buddy came over with roadkill he had strapped to the roof of his car. We marinated it, 'cued it up, and thanked the deer for its interest in headlights.

One strange meat, at least by Western standards, that I went back for was dog. Poshintang, as they call it here in Korea, is actually delicious. The translation from Korean roughly means "body preservation stew." Surgeons prescribe it to patients recovering from the knife. Even better, it's supposed to increase a man's sexual potency. If the soup's prepared right, it's said that eating it will give a man a massive erection. Thus, man's best friend offers complete devotion even after his little puppy spirit has passed into the beyond.