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Man?s meat makes great treat

One man?s meat is another man?s meat too. The murder trial of German cannibal Armin Meiwes is giving desis heartburn. In fact, the subject is ? pardon the pun ? all-consuming.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2004 11:29 IST
Dr Saumya Balsari
Dr Saumya Balsari

One man’s meat is another man’s meat too. The murder trial of German cannibal Armin Meiwes is giving desis heartburn. In fact, the subject is – pardon the pun – all-consuming. The details of the incident may be distasteful and in truth, indigestible for most. Murder is no subject for humour; but if indeed it turns out it was consensual cannibalism, then it is an act so bizarre that lighter perspectives may help stomach the facts and calm the nausea. It may also be worth bearing in mind that in some societies (e.g. Papuan), eating the dead was a perfectly respectable and respectful disposal of bodies, with reported cases up until the 1960s.

Herr Meiwes of Rotenburg found a number of apparently willing victims from Internet cannibalism sites, of which there are approximately eight hundred. Some recruits backed out of the arrangement. According to The Times, ‘One allowed himself to be hung on a hook in clingfilm awaiting slaughter’, but changed his mind and said it was too cold to be killed, upon which Herr Meiwes drove him back (graciously? unwillingly?) to the station. The uses of clingfilm clearly extend to more than Munna’s packed sandwiches, and the ride to the station and the time taken for the arrival of the train could not have been short enough for the victim let off the hook. You might say he had cold feet.

43-year-old engineer Bernd-Juergen Brandes was finally chosen as the object of Meiwes’ feast. Meiwes’ defence is that Brandes always wanted to be killed and eaten. When he arrived at Meiwes’ house, he apparently permitted a certain vital organ to be dismembered. It was to be fried, salted, peppered and garnished with garlic and eaten with relish.

Herr Meiwes was apparently well-versed in the art of carving up Brandes, and when his first attempt to sever the said organ failed on (where else?) the kitchen table, a ‘sharper knife’ eventually did the trick. Herr Meiwes explained to the court: "We had agreed to eat it half and half, but he was growing faint and couldn't wait for his half to be cooked through. So he tried to eat it more or less raw and of course it was too tough. This made him furious." Now despite his apparently gentlemanly agreement of ‘half and half’ surely it was unsporting of Herr Meiwes not to speed up the frying time, and to expect a bleeding Brandes to calmly understand the delay in the side orders as if he were in a restaurant?!

Herr Meiwes is said to have explained it tasted of pork. Several journalists apparently left the court during proceedings to ‘splash water on their faces’, a euphemism for being violently sick. This confirms that journalists are a nice bunch and human, and should be invited for dinner.

Herr Meiwes says he filmed part of the proceedings. What are the odds that this is not going to be on anyone’s wish list for Santa? A video of Disney’s Finding Nemo will do fine. Meiwes claims that since eating Brandes he has felt more stable, and that as Brandes spoke good English, his own English has improved. These must be startling revelations for cash-strapped language schools.

Meiwes is also writing his memoirs. The final product might find little enthusiasm in Britain, which, though known for its encouragement of memoirs, restricts its enthusiasm to a single subject: the Royals.

Residents of Rotenburg found nothing odd about Meiwes or his home. He was on good terms with his neighbours, mowed the lawn and invited them round for dinner. ‘What’s cooking for dinner darling?’ therefore takes on a whole new perspective with the replacement of the word ‘what’ by ‘who’. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Oh, and by the way, I’m a vegetarian.

First Published: Feb 02, 2004 17:33 IST