Z wrote a post recently about rumors that the Chinese practiced fetal cannibalism. I won’t really recap what she had to say, as you can read it here, but it made me want to talk about a book I read recently – Dinner With A Cannibal, by Carole A. Travis-Henikoff (Yeah, that's the kind of stuff I read for fun...).
Travis-Henikoff has researched the cannibalistic traditions of various cultures throughout the world, with some fascinating discoveries.
For one, and accept this as the truth, odds are that cannibalism has happened in your bloodline. It has been practiced by so many different cultures for so many different reasons that you probably have a level of flesh eating in your genes.
But getting back to the actual meat of the book (pun intended), when you look at the legends and histories, so many cultures viewed the “taboo” in so many different ways. In some, it was the way to assure loved ones a peaceful rest and allow them to remain with the family at the same time; in others it was considered a way to vanquish and insult enemies as well as to absorb their strength. In some, it was even an honor to be chosen for sacrifice and consumption for one’s religion.
But to back up Z’s post, simply based on this book, there is no mention of the Chinese indulging in fetal remains or serving them at restaurants. There is a history of cannibalism in Chinese culture, but not in this way. The Chinese have a long history, and therefore have been recorded to practice almost every form of cannibalism known, but they also practice one that has never been recorded elsewhere.
It’s called ko ku, or gegu, and it involves a family member cutting off a piece of one’s own flesh, usually from the thigh, and boiling it into a broth to be served to a dying family member.
I don't think it's practiced any more, though; maybe it tasted just like chicken soup, and they later discovered that chicken soup did the same thing?
As much as that may skeeve you out, the symbolism is heavy and kind of beautiful. I have to ask, if it were either part of your religion where you believed it to be 100%, or if science were to prove it to be true, would you cut off a piece of your flesh to save a sibling, child or parent? I think most of us would. And really, I think my parents have sacrificed much more than a hunk of flesh over the years for me my brother and sister.
It’s just what you do when called upon.
At any rate, this is just a theory, but I have a definite idea that once lab-grown cruelty-free meat becomes a reality (and it really is in the works), you’re going to at least find some cutting-edge trendy places serving lab-grown people meat on the menu, and maybe it will spread to all forms of dining. Family dining? Eating at a mom and pop? Kind of creepy.