Humans Have a Long History of Eating Each Other
People who eat people are generally not considered “good people.” If you have any doubts, spend an afternoon searching the world wide web and peruse the “Cannibal Top Ten Lists,” which are occupied by the Milwaukee Monster Jeffrey Dahmer, Japanese exchange student Issei Sagawa, and child-killer Albert Fish. And news of the insane and psychopathic hits our home pages on the regular, such as the recent story of a hotel restaurant in Nigeria shut down by police for serving human flesh as an “expensive treat.”
The dispatches we have from a pre-internet era are no different. With the torch lit by Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century B.C., carried on by the likes of Captain Cook and his crewin the Pacific, and still not yet extinguished by those traveling through Africa in the early twentieth century, a significant portion of European history is dedicated to documenting encounters with the bloodthirsty man-eaters of the far corners of the globe.
Tinged with varying degrees of racism, many of these accounts are just xenophobic hearsay. A surprising number, however, have actually been verified as true.
What Your Favorite Writers Put in Their Mouths
Writers tend to be mum on what they are currently work on, but what about a different, but still intimate, aspect to their creative routines—like what they eat? I asked a boatload of writers what they are having, or had, for lunch, on a random day this year. Why lunch? Because it usually happens squarely in the middle of the day and seems optional; lunch seems like the meal with the potential to be the most varied. You could eat a bloody porterhouse with mashed potatoes or a handful of microgreens with no dressing: lunch is chaos.
Gary Shteyngart - A ham sandwich. (He emailed an hour later to add “lasagna bolognese.”)
Amelia Gray - Steak in the pan with butter.
Ron Currie Jr. - “Mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, topped with a few ounces of tuna, accompanied by a glass of tap water and a heaping helping of body image issues/fear of sudden cardiac catastrophe. Followed with a cigarette.”
Zadie Smith - “The prawn wrap from Pret. Most days. I’m not proud of it.”
Brian Evenson - “At Chipotle I ordered a salad to go, with lots of lettuce, black beans, fajita’d veggies (there’s probably another term for that, an actual term), chicken, mild salsa and corn salsa, sour cream, cheese, guacamole, and some extra lettuce on top to keep it from sticking to the top of the container, and some chips.”
Elissa Schappell - Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, green salad, and water with lemon.
Jesse Ball - Theo chocolate 70% with almonds.
Emily St. John Mandel - “Usually quiche from the cafeteria at the university where I work.”
Blake Butler - “I don’t eat lunch unless I’m on vacation.”
Munchies: Andrew Zimmern
You might know Andrew Zimmern from his Travel Channel show Bizarre Foods in which he wolfs down unsightly things halfway across the world. Maybe you’ve wondered what eats when he’s out with friends in New York. For this episode of Munchies, Andrew chose to start at Osteria Morini, where the most bizarre food on the table was an amazing rib eye carpaccio that had been aged for 120 days. Then they headed to Marc Forgione for one of the more interesting meals we’ve ever seen. We ended up at the kitchen of Barbuto, where Zimmern made Chinese chicken drumsticks for the legendary chef Jonathan Waxman. Enjoy.
Watch the episode
My Lunch with One of the World’s Top Human Rights Violators
I don’t ever remember getting a call. I don’t remember what they told us on the way. All I can remember is being hurried through to a back room of some regional Russian airport and waiting.
You’ll have to forgive me, a lot of this story is blurry. See, when a Russian offers you vodka, you must accept. Now, I’m not one to turn down a free drink regardless of international diplomacy, but in early 2007 I wasespecially eager to improve the image of Americans abroad (which, at the time, was “Jabba the Hut wearing a cowboy hat screeching ‘WHY DON’T YOU TALK ENGLISH.’”)
I asked our translator when we’d be arriving in Sochi, and he just smiled and shook his head. He said goodbye, wished me luck and safety, and left. My two lead producers, Eric— a charming little schmoozer whose habit of partying like he was still in college never got in the way of his work, and Debbie— a depressing, oblivious, lump who hyphenated her three syllable long maiden name to her husband’s three syllable long surname even though they fucking rhymed, were called over to a corner to talk with Vlad, our fixer. When shooting a show abroad, it pays to have a local on your team to navigate the sea of con-men wearing official uniforms — and Vlad, an imposing scowl of a man, almost certainly ex-KGB, was as good as you could get. The conversation was in heated whispers; short, angry bursts of air punctuated by flailing arm gestures.
Eric, visibly shaking off the news, approached me.
“The Russians gave away our fucking hotel rooms to the IOC. There’s not a goddamned room left in all of Sochi.”
I stuttered a bit before I could even get out a “Wait— what? Where are we—”
“Oh don’t worry,” he sneered, “they’ve got a plan for us. They’re sending us to Chechnya.”
Now, at this point, my only knowledge of Chechnya was a vague recollection of that Moscow theater hostage crisis— y’know, the one where like 50 Chechen rebels stormed a theater and the Russians unceremoniously gassed the shit out of everyone, killing like 150 people? Yeah, that one. As we made preparations to board the small twin-engine jet, I had no idea what we were getting into. For all I knew, Chechnya was a full-on fucking war-zone. Rumors started swirling that the last American to set in foot in Chechnya was sent home in a body bag, some AP reporter who got herself exploded at a soccer game. This was NOT what I signed up for. We weren’t here to shoot goddamned Restrepo, we were here to produce a fucking beauty pageant.
Richard Kern’s Films Are Still Shocking as Hell
If you know VICE, you know Richard Kern. He’s been taking picture of young, supple women not wearing clothes for us (and a myriad of others, as well as for his own fine art) for years. Hell, he even has his own show with us. But what some of you whippersnappers may not know is that Richard wasn’t always making his current brand of hot naked girl art. Back in the day, Richard, along with buddies like Lydia Lunch, David Wojnarowicz, Lung Leg, Sonic Youth, and Henry Rollins, made some of the most bloody, sexually devious, and generally fucked up short films ever. Labeled the “Cinema of Transgression,” Richard and like-minded film makers shooked viewers to the core with their art. All of his films from this era were just remastered andreleased on Blu-ray. I recently came to work one morning and found a copy of the collection on my desk. Of course, I had to watch it. I then called up Richard and convinced him to come talk to me.
VICE: I was given a copy of the collection. I put it on the Blu-ray player at work and sat in the dark and watched all of it. There were some things that were hard to get through, to be honest, but it was definitely visceral and striking.
Richard Kern: And old, 40 years old.
What do you see when you watch the films today, now that the time has passed?
Pretty much the same as they were before, it hasn’t changed one bit. It’s like it was just yesterday, that’s the weird thing with time. It seems like yesterday. But I still look at it and wonder what people are seeing when they see it. There’s a couple of films I’ve got a really good idea of how the audience is going to react, but not in general. Like the very first one I made was Goodbye 42nd Street, that’s on there. The first time I showed it, I was really surprised people were into it. I just thought it was such a shitty Super-8 movie, but people responded well and that encouraged me. The first time it was at a screening, it wasn’t allowed to be screened. They immediately said, “You can’t show this.” That was also inspiring, to say “fuck you” to those kind people.
So you were part of Cinema of Transgression. Were you trying specifically to shock people and freak them out or was that an after-effect?
The group of films that immediately preceded it in the underground were all very boring. It seemed like one of the qualifications was to make it boring and slow and long. So our plan was to make it short, and make it non-boring, if possible. And that may not work now, but back then it did, and we just tried to break down any moral thing or taboo you could. One of my personal things was to fuck up relationships and fuck up people’s heads as much as possible. People were completely shocked by some of the stuff. But this was in the 80s, so I don’t know how they will react now.
Do you think it’s as shocking now as it was then?
There was this show in Berlin at the KW Institute of Contemporary Art in Berlin. They did this whole Cinema of Transgression month where they installed the films in this club-like atmosphere, like you would’ve seen back then, in different, weird rooms. People said it was really effective, and it was. I walked through and there was one film that I watched that a friend of mine made that I hadn’t seen since then and I couldn’t sit through the whole thing, it was just too fucking hardcore. So it’s definitely a negative attitude, everything was negative, everything was nihilist. It’s the whole belief, and it probably sounds stupid sitting here in this restaurant, but you have to destroy everything to start over again. That was the whole anarchist approach, which was pretty much the punk attitude. It was “fuck everything.” And I felt the only way you could really destroy and fuck with people was to fuck with their love life and their personal relationships. When you see something, it coarsens you. Every bad thing you see coarsens you. Think about video games, like playing Black-Ops—it fucks with your head. I don’t care what people say.
I was reading some of the reviews and one of the main critiques was that these people were shitty actors. Was that a secondary care for you?
It’s funny you just said that because I never thought about that. It wasn’t the same kind of approach, and if I was making one now, I still wouldn’t think about it. I never thought about that. But yeah, they are shitty actors. It’s all your state of mind when you’re looking at them, everybody in the movies is pretty real.
Yeah, the things they were doing were real.
Believe me, in Fingered, Marty Nation was exactly like that, no exaggeration. The guy who’s lifting weights, he was like that. Everybody was real. Lydia Lunch was like that. Lung Leg was like that. The story was based on Lydia and Marty’s travels when she was 16 and they would hitchhike and get picked up by somebody, and Marty would take his knife out and start stabbing and cutting up the upholstery in the car, looking at the guy. All those guys were really scary. The guy who’s lifting weights in it got killed about two years ago, somebody shot him finally.