Let me begin in a rather succinct way: I am a monster. No, not metaphorically. Yes, I really do exist. Yes, I eat people, though the correct term is anthropophage. You can google this.
Now that we have that out of the way…
You probably have some mixed feelings, hearing one so matter-of-factly declare such a thing. You are reading this and thinking, “Ah, this is quaint!” or perhaps you are disappointed. You anticipated pidgin English like Tarzan, or would rather I utilize a medium that allows me to snarl like a doberman pinscher. The work of Mormon housewives may have driven you to imagine an enigmatic smoldering stare.
Do not get your hopes up.
Fiction has done much to impede this conversation. After all, we monsters did not exactly come out and allow ourselves to be examined for the sake of science. The more misconceptions you maintain, the easier it is to eat you. When humanity perceived even a slightly hulking form, or heaven forbid, a mirthless cackle, it took flight and did not stop to make an accurate and detailed checklist.
So it is that my species has been exaggerated into caricature, turned into ghouls, goblins, and ghosts. The worse we loomed, the more you tried to unmake us, with songs and books and plays of our vanquishing. Once we became the stuff of bobbing, plastic, animatronic enjoyment for a dark and stormy All Hallows Eve like tonight, we ceased to be truly terrifying. That is how humanity has purged us from its psyche.
Well done. But please allow a word of caution, gentle reader: you may no longer be afraid of us, but we are still here.
I have heard it said that as many as 50,000 Americans go missing every year. The question is: where do they go? There really is no way the national forests of this fair land could contain some several hundred thousand mouldering corpses at a time without a hiker stumbling over one every time he goes out. Nor is it feasible that since the advent of facial recognition, GPS, and RFID chips, a person could assume another identity without a single hitch. So where are they?
Imagine there are only 2,000 of us, and we each counted calories like a supermodel. That’s twelve bodies per year, each. That’s half the yearly statistic, half of all the missing accounted for. Why half? Why not go for the full quota, you ask? Well, I must not detract from the truly awesome cruelty you somehow manage to perpetrate against yourselves — from concentration camps, to atom bombs. Humanity gives monsters like me a bad name.
So, please allow me, as an offended party, to set the record straight.
Contrary to fiction, we are not confined to drinking blood, or eating brains or leaving you in tubs of ice with your kidneys missing. I take great pride in being a conservationist; I eat everything. The idea of cleaning up every clue with the precision of a maggot appeals to me, though perhaps the image is not a flattering one. I like being what I am: a consumer. I consume until there is nothing left.
Of course…you are breeding very quickly these days. I have been sorely tempted to pick off a few just for their more savory parts, but that would be wasteful.
You are probably wondering why I would come forward, why I would risk the wrath of my fellows for revealing our age-old infiltration. It is a natural question, and lest you think this some kind of fiction for art’s sake, I will give you the only answer I have.
It is an experiment. A point. An argument for the furthering of knowledge. Mixed with a little boredom, if I am honest.
I have been watching as your culture enveloped our myths, absorbed what was so terrifying, and turned us into heroes. I think that perhaps now is the moment when your minds have become so deluded by comparisons of cannibalism with sex that my revelations will make not a single ripple. We shall see. But there is one simple test.
You don’t believe me, do you?
No, not really.
The truth is, you have given us an even better hiding place than we could have asked for, and the days of witch hunts, talismans, and portents are behind you. Congratulations.
So here we are. You will be allowed to interact with the most dangerous of animals, from a comfortable distance. Perhaps you will enjoy it. I hope so. I find that my life certainly seems to be the stuff of films, television, and mini-series, though I do hope never to find the contents of this journal on the CW network. That would be utterly disheartening, and while it would serve to prove the point under which I begin this experiment, it would banish any and all cathartic response I might have.
I hope to keep a daily account of my life, hidden among you. I love food, and so I think you will discover that it is largely gustatory in nature, rife with recipes and cooking tips. You may also find, in the contents of this diary, a tidbit here or there of a history that will seem at least partly familiar to you. I advise you to absorb it and be aware that during times of hunger, of wandering, of banishment from society, my concept of time shifts. Even when well-fed, certain things seem very vivid to me, and events that are momentous to humanity seem not so pivotal. I apologize if you find this distracting.
I can only tell you what I know, so if you hope to read some great and insightful depiction of the French Revolution, please know that during that time, I was nowhere near France, as the terrible events were preceded by a devastating famine. Skinny, malnourished corpses are not my favorite. I was in the Americas, obsessing over the awe-inspiring indigenous flora…and incidentally, beer. If you are hoping to hear my account of slavery, you should know that I was fixated upon the flavors of meat raised in the terroir of Virginian tobacco plantations, and didn’t even notice the skin color of any given human. You all smell the same to me. If you are looking for an exposé on the tribulations of the Great Depression, I was unfortunately already on the West Coast eating migrant workers, of which there were many without any family or identification. I did not find grapes particularly wrathful. So please know, my purpose here is not to rewrite what you believe to be your past.
I do not need to insert myself. I have been living my life all along, right beside you, and had more important things to worry about than politics or war. Like mobs with torches and pitchforks, an aspect of the stories which is regrettably true.
I am seldom, if ever, intentionally funny. If you find yourself laughing at something I have said, I suggest you take a moment to reconsider that I may, indeed, not be “kidding”, and if you find this alternative too awful to consider…well, might I suggest you find something else to read?
In centuries past (when writing was finally taught to the masses, of course), a diary was considered a proper pursuit, even for young ladies. It was thought to encourage personal reflection. Their technological counterpart, however, is merely a platform by which one speaks to a captive audience and fends off anonymous reproach. It is amazing that the evolution took so long; given your tendency toward regrettable psychological conditions. I would have expected it sooner.
I understand that questions may arise, so I vow, here and now, to answer them. Feel free to contact me, my email is easy to find and I have all the social media apps — except Instagram. I do not “do” photos. Probe and test my brain for signs of falsehoods; query me about life as a monster; harangue me about being a second-rate author; but please be polite. The more well-structured the encounter, the less confusion results. As may be expected, more than enough difficulties will hamper our engagement without rudeness added to the mix.
And so, in an environment of apathy, and denial, via a medium of anonymity, uninhibited critique, and rampant self-absorption, I share my secrets with you. Never fear for my self-esteem, however. Do not fall into that sweet and nigh-invisible trap. I am not your friend. If you catch yourself liking me, just turn away. I will not be hurt by your laughter, censure, or shock, any more than you give any passing thought to the feelings of your cheerios.
Welcome to my life. I heretofore absolve myself of any and all guilt should you choose to try my recipes. May the consequences be on your head if you do not substitute proteins.
Tongue in Cheek, a recipe
- A large frying pan or cast iron skillet
- A large, oven-safe casserole dish
- For the tongue:
- Fresh tongue (You should go with pork, though I personally prefer the tongue that goes with the cheek plus a few extras, and for the best cheeks, I troll fast food locations late at night. That is not a joke.)
- cheeks (again, go with pork, and usually you’ll need about six)
- bay leaves
- fresh black peppercorns
- Kosher salt
- 1 small onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 1/4 c sweet cider
- 2 tsp cider vinegar
- 1 c chicken stock
- 5 tsp unsalted butter
- Preheat oven to 300
- Cut the bacon into thin lardons and set aside.
- Wash the tongue(s) in cold water and place in a large pan with 1 bay leaf, peppercorns to taste, salt, and some of the bacon.
- Add just enough cold water to cover the ingredients, then bring to a boil.
- Skim the surface of any foam (a very important step), then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the point of a knife is easily inserted into the thickest part of the tongue(s). (If you are using human tongues, cooking time is obviously shorter, so don’t be discouraged if you are using pork and it takes a bit)
- Leave the tongue(s) to sit in the cooking water until cool enough to handle.
- Discard the cooking water and peel the thick outer skin from the tongue(s).
- Place the meat in the refrigerator to chill.
- Meanwhile, prepare the cheeks. Heat a frying pan and, when hot, add the remaining lardons of bacon and fry for about 5 minutes.
- Transfer the bacon to a flameproof casserole dish.
- Add the onion, garlic, remaining bay leaf and peppercorns to the bacon, then the cheeks. Pour in the cider, vinegar and stock.
- Bring the contents of the casserole dish to a boil on the stovetop, then cover and place in the oven for about 60-90 minutes or until the cheeks are tender.
- Remove the casserole from the oven and lift out the cheeks and bacon, setting them aside in a warm place.
- Strain the cooking juices into a saucepan and boil until the volume of liquid has reduced by two-thirds.
- Meanwhile, slice the chilled tongue(s) lengthwise.
- Whisk the butter into the sauce and adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
- Reduce the heat and add the cheeks, bacon, and sliced tongue(s) and heat through gently before serving.
This can be served alone, over crusty bread, potatoes, rice. It matters very little, and I find it particularly nice on a cold night.