Monday, July 12, 2010

Placenta. It's what's for dinner

I set out to write about eating lethal amounts of frozen custard but I ended up writing about eating placentas. Strange, I know.

Here's the story: Chillz, a local custard place offers a “challenge,” which is to eat eight scoops of frozen custard, eight toppings and eight waffles. If you do it in 30 minutes they take your picture and you get it free. If you can't do it, you have to pay $25 for it. I jokingly mentioned this to my brother and he seriously suggested we try it. Now I knew it was a stupid idea, but when I'm around my brother my competitive side comes out and I agreed to do it.

We knew we were out of our depth when we arrived at Chillz. We announced that we were here to do the challenge and the girl behind the counter said, “Have you been training?”


“You know, like going to all-you-can-eat places for several weeks, drinking several gallons of water in a sitting, eating drills. Stuff like that.”

Uh-oh. As you can imagine it was pretty much downhill from there. As my brother and I tried to kill ourselves with custard, the owner of Chillz talked a lot about “competitive eating,” where there are leagues and people stretch out their stomachs on purpose and compete to eat ridiculously large quantities of food in ridiculously short quantities of time. Competitive eaters run the risk of stomach paralysis and stomach perforations. “Competitive eating” is basically a cool name for Binge Eating Disorder that sounds better on ESPN2. The perversity of it all was too much for me to bear.

And speaking of perverse eating habits, around this same time my wife was doing a little research and was horrified to discover “placentophagy,” which – not unlike “competitive eating” – is a fancy word for something disgusting.

Placentophagy means “mammals eating the placenta of their young after childbirth,” which is fine if you are a goat, cat or woodchuck, but there are human women who advocate a mother eating her own placenta to prevent postpartum depression, no joke. Supposedly the practice has its roots in ancient eastern medicine, and if there's one thing hippies love, it's eastern medicine.

We had a lot of questions about placentophagy. For example, does a pregnant woman go to the delivery with a doggie-bag and say to the doctor, “Can you wrap this up for me, Doctor? I'd like to save this to eat later.” What if they mixed up the placentas and accidentally give you someone else's placenta to eat? Has one mother ever said to another, “Are you gonna eat that?”

These placentophagists aren't totally crazy, though. Instead of eating the placenta raw they say to freeze-dry it, grind it up and then put it on pizza or stir it into your coffee. (“How do you take your coffee?” “Cream, sugar, and a spoonful of placenta, if you please.”)

Which begs many more questions: Are there placenta recipe books? Does eating placenta give you “placenta breath”? I would not come within ten feet of someone who had been eating their own placenta, there is not enough mouthwash in the world.

And what do you use to grind up a placenta? A blender? Once you've ground up a placenta in a blender, you can't use it for anything else ever again. Not smoothies, not anything.

One placentophagist argument is that, “All mammals do it, humans are mammals, so humans should do it.” I took an English class in college, and that sure sounds like a “logical fallacy” to me, especially because other mammals live in holes, eat insects and clean themselves with their tongues, and I am not about to do any of those things.

The moral of the story is you are what you eat.