Essay / 9 April 2019

On Optioning Cannibalism

Green Light Eating

You are what is eaten. The food before you, where did it disappear to? Once fresh, now packaged, possibly tinned. Possibly eternal. Now within, lost inside of you. Allowing to move, to crawl, to cry. Never to be seen again. Can you eat choice? What are the boundaries of selectiveness? How the gluten intolerant must have once suffered, throughout all of human history. So eating, with teeth, or just swallowing, like a duck, confronts us. Every day, three times a day, say. Like the delicate balance of anticipation, do we need to eat, or can we skip this meal?

The diet claims that you should eat the same foods that your hunter-gatherer ancestors ate before agriculture developed. The theory is that most modern diseases can be linked to the Western diet and the consumption of grains, dairy, and processed foods.

The most readily available source of meat was once the only dietary advice the human ape needed. Climbing the hill of necessity that turned to taste. Animal proteins have their revenge as the cause of the cancer crab. There’s a strange and fearful clarity being full after a period of hunger. Everything is clearer. There’s the fear the feeling will go away again. People who grew up hungry often are changed forever.

What is the disease kuru? Kuru is a very rare disease. It is caused by an infectious protein (prion) found in contaminated human brain tissue. Kuru is found among people from New Guinea who practiced a form of cannibalism in which they ate the brains of dead people as part of a funeral ritual.

The diet claims veganism is the strictest form of vegetarianism. In addition to eliminating meat, it eliminates eggs, dairy, and all animal-derived products, in fact. Things like gelatine, honey, albumin, whey, casein, and some forms of vitamin D3.

Eating late at night. You’ve had bad advice, maybe a bad day at work? Snacking. Availability equals opportunity. Excess equals displeasure. Abundance kills joy. If only we could switch what we eat, somehow, by changing how we eat? Food pills for space travel, liquid meals, old WWII rations being opened and eaten on YouTube even though they are, of course, 80 years old. The man squeaks with glee as he opens the can. Eating as time travel. Eating in time. The meal begins, time passes, it ends. You have lost friends, you are sick. Soup fills you, apples have pectin. Can you escape the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet without diarrhoea? Is it okay to eat meat if I kill it myself? Please, just run, don’t look back. I have a bow because I’m a woodsman.

All humble thanks to the first restaurant critic. With the publication of his Almanach des gourmandsin the early 19th century, Alexandre Balthasar Laurent Grimod de la Reynière invented the restaurant review. He was around just over a century after Blaise Pascal’s death. ‘All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone’.

The diet claims to force your body to use more fats for fuel instead of using carbs as a main source of energy.

Nazis requisitioned livestock in Norway. The Norwegian resistance is vegetarian without choice. Low rates of cancer. A servant of the People’s Republic declares a health survey in his will. Rural Chinese people eat less meat, have less cancer. A shop window on Hampstead High Street with three racks of cow ribs in the window. Fresh. Matured. Aged. I think they are the top of thighs, bottom of hips. Thank god we finally know that we are eating ourselves. Still, a Burger has a king. Ronald McDonald is not the stuff of nightmares, echoing John Wayne Gacy. And Five Guys, they are growing, cloning maybe. Maybe there are even more than five of them now?

Techniques for acknowledging satiation. Know when you are full. If you pause long enough, the hunger that began your journey into gluttony will curiously disappear. You will realise a different kind of shame, not that which follows gorging, eating bad foods, ridding your body of the opportunity to grow, to flow, to cleanse itself. No rather the shame of realising you don’t what you think you do. Do you even know yourself? You can’t even work out what food to eat and in what quantities.

The diet says just eat what you like.

British soldiers were afraid of capture as corpses were found butchered for meat in the Javan forests. The Ukrainian famine. Bones in the basement. What you are capable of is not knowable, to live.

We had Bourdain to help us, but he is gone now.

The diet claims high-protein, low-carb weight loss is best split into four phases — two weight loss phases and two maintenance phases. Sure.

That recipe is a painstaking document to some and a coded mystery to others. It is a poem in which you can sense the tip of anxiety being nudged in. Eating is eating, but cooking, this is what separates us from the animals. From the animals we might eat. Cooking is a serious business. Turn the meat brown. Turn the vegetables black. Turn the fruit to mush. Cooking is not fun. It is a serious business, a profession. It is not for the hungry, but for the ready, the paying public. Or the family. Well, not really, anymore. There is always a lot at stake, cooking. But eating. Food is fuel, get it in there. Gordon Ramsey asking if it’s fresh or frozen? You know the answer. It is the space between cooking and eating.

Dog. Gaegogi power. Babyfish. A toxic river fish, shaped like a squirrel, served to me, as guest, upon a table, in Beijing. I decline, no thank you, I’m a vegan, as I said. Ah well, nodding, you can eat around it. Can I though? Can I eat shapes?

The diet claims that traditional low-fat diets are not low enough in fat and that fat intake needs to stay under 10% of total calories to produce health benefits and weight loss.

No one cares what happens to your body after death anymore. There are no sacred patches. No earthly remains. You stay fresh for a few days.

The diet claims, nay, insists, that you can lose weight by eating as much protein and fat as you like, as long as you avoid carbs.

Eating as coprophagia. Reading Vladimir Sorokin’s Norma, hard to find a Western translation. Eating as cunnilingus, fellatio, anilingus. In Chinese Taoism, revered as a spiritually-fulfilling practice that is believed to enhance longevity. In Western darkness, commonly used as a means of preserving virginity.

The psychotic Christianity of the conquistadors meeting Moctezuma and the Aztecs, watching them eat hearts and liver. A contemporary judgement that they should have been less resolute in their horror? Empathy has historical limits.

The diet claims you’ve had it all wrong, so far. It’s the low-glycemic load that has you limit carbs to 35–45% of daily calories and protein and fat to 30% each which will work the bestest.

Sweet meat is not what is seems to be. Only meat that held a psyche, an unconscious, blood flow and other actions of machinery. Only pictures remain, squared off on Instagram to last, what your meat was whole.

A planet crash in the Andes, starring Ethan Hawke. Okja would be tasty. The Host even more so.

The diet claims it’s not what but when. It claims to cycle your body between periods of fasting and eating. It controls when you eat them. Thus, it can be seen as more of an eating pattern than a diet. Choose from the 16/8 method, the eat-stop-eat method, the 5:2 diet… It’s all personal preference.

A time of eating meat which teaches me what I am not. Not strong meat for me, not gamey, not game bred or organic fed. Not good for eating, meat full of antibiotics and defeated chemicals. Meat in the night, begging, don’t eat me. An eating door that opens to unravelling. Meat eating that asks what’s wrong with me? The back. The toes, like chicken feet, a delicacy. A bison heart full of blood. Chicken hearts on skewers.

How has the diet gone? You’re looking good. Choosey even. You’re looking tidy, and lean, and you look like you chose to be so.

Accounts of women cannibals seem absent from history. It’s all, in the end, about tenderness, eating and cooking and feeding. And seasoning. And survival. And making a will. And leaving your body to the hungry.