It doesn't taste like chicken.
Human is a rare delicacy, served only under a cloud of starvation-induced desperation, during the rituals of exotic, faraway tribes, or in "a green pepper sauce with croquettes and Brussels sprouts" if you happen to be the psychotic German cannibal Armin Meiwes.
The taste of man meat is a topic largely glossed over by science -- I just don't see it passing ethics boards anytime soon. For that reason, all we have are fairly unreliable, albeit juicy anecdotes. The aforementioned Meiwes, who has eaten a solid 50 pounds of man in his life, likened the flavor to slightly bitter pork, adding that it was "quite good."
We also have the testimony of the infamous Colorado prospector Alfred Packer. In 1874, Packer apparently killed and devoured his five companions when provisions ran low. In 1883, he told a reporter that their breasts were "the sweetest meat" he'd ever tasted.
116 years later, crazed murderer Omeima Nelson echoed Packer's appraisal. After killing her abusive husband, she barbecued and ate his ribs.
"It's so sweet, it's so tender and delicious," she reminisced to psychiatrists.
Just in case you weren't keeping tally, we have two votes for "sweet" and one vote for "pork," all from deranged killers -- hardly reliable sources. Luckily, we can do better than that.
Sometime in the late 1920s, writer, traveler, and explorer William Seabrook procured the meat of a freshly deceased cadaver. At the time, he was writing a book about the Guerò of Western Africa. Earlier, during his stay with the ritualistic cannibals, he had been tricked into eating ape instead of human, a ruse that might not be disappointing to most, but was devastating to Seabrook. He was adamant about trying the real thing; the veracity of his book depended upon it!
Seabrook prepared the procured human meat as simply as possible, roasting it over an open spit with no form of marinade or seasoning. His meal was simple: a human steak, a bottle of wine, a side of rice, with salt and pepper to taste.
"It was like good, fully developed veal, not young, but not yet beef..." Seabrook described. "
It was mild, good meat with no other sharply defined or highly
characteristic taste such as for instance, goat, high game, and pork
have. The steak was slightly tougher than prime veal, a little stringy,
but not too tough or stringy to be agreeably edible. The roast, from
which I cut and ate a central slice, was tender, and in color, texture,
smell as well as taste, strengthened my certainty that of all the meats
we habitually know, veal is the one meat to which this meat is
Years later, anthropologist Jeremy MacClancy of Oxford Brookes University interviewed the natives of New Hebrides islands, located in the South Pacific. Interestingly, many of the islanders told him that human meat is "very sweet." Maybe Packer and Omeima weren't so crazy after all...
But sweet is still quite a vague description, almost meaningless really. People's definitions of sweet differ greatly based on a lot of factors. And let's face it, without many accounts, taste is very difficult to gauge. We often can't describe it with adjectives, only by analogy ("_____ tastes like _____").
"We know how difficult it is for us to describe well the ethereal nature of a flavor, why should we expect the process to be easier for our cannibal acquaintance?" Gary Allen, an educator at the Culinary Institute of America, wrote in 1999.
For the definitive answer, I guess we'll probably have to wait for the Food Network special.
(Image: Human Foot via Shutterstock)