Adventures in Eating: How to Cook a Placenta

I’m not kidding. Welcome to placentophagy. There’s a theory that eating the afterbirth is good for various things, including post-partum depression. Just ask Tom Cruise. He reportedly did it after the birth of his daughter in 2006 and he’s perfectly sane, right? The word “placenta” comes from Latin, which translates to “flat cake.” And if you can’t handle eating a real one-wimp!-you can travel to Romania where they serve placinta, a flattened pastry stuffed with things like pumpkin.

But then there’s posthephagy. With the exception of certain fetish communities, I couldn’t find many places around the world that practice this. But there’s a precedent in the western world. Well, sort of.

Meet Agnes Blannbekin. This early-fourteenth-century Austrian lived as a beguine-a single woman who resided in an all-women’s home-and would spend her day going from church service to church service, having memorized the schedule of masses in every church in Vienna. We know this because a monk friend of hers wrote down a series of visions that Agnes claimed to have had. The writings were eventually published under the title Life and Revelations, and when it first hit the streets in 1731, it was an immediate scandal. Agnes’s criticism of the pope wasn’t too well received. Also, some of her daily devotional practices were strangely erotic. At the end of each mass, for example, she would partake in a practice that was apparently quite dear to her, making a beeline for the altar and showering it with an amount of amorous emotion and enthusiasm that would make modern Roman teenagers blush.But that wasn’t exactly what all the commotion was about when Life and Revelations hit the street. It was all about Chapter 37, titled “Regarding the Foreskin of Christ.” The chapter describes how the young Agnes would always cry on the feast day of the Circumcision, saddened by the first spillage of Christ’s blood. One particular year on January 1, Agnes, tearful and in mourning, began to wonder where the Holy Foreskin might have ended up. Suddenly, the inside of her mouth was overcome with a sweet sensation. She stuck out her tongue and there in the middle of it was “a little piece of skin alike the skin of an egg,” which she promptly swallowed. And then the sweetness came again and there was another piece of skin. She swallowed. And again, it came back and she swallowed again. This happened about a hundred times, until she was tempted to touch the piece of skin with her finger. When she tried, the piece of flesh began going down her throat on its own. So amplified was the sweetness her in mouth, all of Agnes’s limbs quivered and shook as they, too, were engulfed with the saccharine spirit of the Holy Foreskin.

Her confessor, the anonymous monk who scribbled down Agnes’s visions, wrote that Agnes was reluctant to talk about this particular revelation. But she did anyway, which excited him to no end: “I . . . was really very comforted that the Lord deigned to show Himself to a human being in such a way, and greatly desired to hear [about it].”

There’s no pastry-like item named for the foreskin. And you’re unlikely to find many recipes involving the prepuce. Well, there’s this. And we’ll drink to that.

[Photo credit: Sean in Japan]