Saturday, August 28, 2010

Food: Ich bin ein your dinner.

If you're a surgeon with a notably flexible interpretation of the Hippocratic Oath or a person who thinks you're being burdened with unnecessary body parts, then the forward-thinking restauranteurs behind Flime would love to hear from you.

A soon-to-open Berlin restaurant is touting for diners willing to do just that: donate body parts that it says it will turn into gourmet meals according to the age-old cooking habits of an Amazonian tribe infamous for its cannibalism.

The promotion has been declared grossly distasteful by a growing number of protesters, who say it is in particularly bad taste following the case of a real cannibal in Germany.

In a prominent advertising campaign on the internet, in German newspapers and on television, the restaurant, Flime, is appealing for willing donors and diners to become members of what it hints at being a new dining movement.

"Members declare themselves willing to donate any part of their body," the advertisement reads, adding that any resulting hospital costs will be taken on by the restaurant. They say they are also looking to employ an "open-minded surgeon".

The location of the restaurant – if it exists – is being kept a secret, as is the identity of the owners and investors behind it. As a foretaste of its menu, Flime is suggesting traditional Brazilian dishes such as bolinho, which it describes as "fried tatar balls with a sweet-sour dip", or feijoada, a main course consisting of "various pieces of meat with black beans and rice". It does not specify what type of meat is used.

The restaurant cites as its inspiration the indigenous Brazilian Waricaca tribe, which once practised the ritual of "compassionate cannibalism", or eating parts of the corpse of a loved one to emphasise the connection between the living and the dead, which was said to help with mourning.

Widely held to be a joke, local politicos are unamused by the hoax eatery and some evoke the specter of Armin Meiwes, the cannibal killer who sexually mutilated and partially consumed a willing victim in 2001.

"I'm working on the assumption that this is some sort of a warped joke," he [Michael Braun, the vice-chairman of Berlin's Christian Democrat party - CRwM] told Bild. "But it's disgusting, not least because it wasn't long ago that we had the case of the Berliner who was murdered by a cannibal."

Braun was referring to the case of the computer technician Bernd J├╝rgen Brandes, who in 2001 volunteered himself to the self-confessed cannibal Armin Meiwes, who chopped off his penis and prepared it as a dish seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic.

Meiwes then killed Brandes and consumed his flesh over the following months. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2006.

The case drew attention to a growing underground cannibal movement. Experts believe cannibalism has about 800 followers in Germany alone, only a minimal number of whom have carried out the practice.

It should be noted that the restaurant owners reveal a decidedly one-sided understanding of the Wari' tribe (for instance, they prefer that non-tribesmen refer to them as the Wari') and the cannibal traditions they allegedly practiced before their pacification in the 20th Century. The "compassionate cannibalism" mentioned did take place. After a member of the tribe died, family members would embrace the corpse. Then the body was left alone for an unspecified number of days. After this aging period, the dead person's closest of kin would prepare the body of dead and offer tokens of meat to members of the extended family (given that the Wari' practice polygyny, these family networks can get pretty extensive).

However, this was only one of the cannibal practices of the Wari'. The other allegedly involved the consumption of fallen enemies. Wari' warriors would bring back the bodies of slain enemies and offer them to the women and young men of the tribe. Children were forbidden to eat the flesh of enemies and the warriors, due to an elaborate system of religious assumptions, stayed away for fear that consuming the flesh of a fallen foe was a form of auto-cannibalism that would weaken you. Because this latter form of cannibalism was triumphal and less constrained by ritual, it's here that the artistic and creative aspects of cooking humans were allowed to take the fore. If, in fact, Flime exists and it is using recipes from the Wari', it is more likely that they are pulling inspiration from this latter tradition and not the tradition of "compassionate cannibalism."

The image above is artist Lulu Allison's "Cannibal Figger."


zoe said...

oh, i heard about the willing victim bizarre...
but a restaurant?
based on meat *donations*?
maybe it's some sort of extreme vegetarian publicity thing. ?

Christian O. said...

Probably a joke. Probably not the best place to make it. Germany is notoriously conservative in relation to really taboo subjects. They're more likely to have an overblow reaction to jokes or art relating to something taboo. Look at their stance on nazi iconography. I highly doubt the German public is more inclined towards turning to nazism than any other Western society.

In short: They'd rather ban and ignore something than make a public discussion out of it.

And ethics aside; cannibalism, culinarily, is just a bad idea because of human-to-human transmitted diseases.

DM said...

"...growing underground cannibal movement. Experts believe cannibalism has about 800 followers in Germany alone..."

Am I the only one who thinks this is the real problem, and not the presumed cannibal restaurant?