by Alison Bruzek, The Salt at NPR Food (9/30/14)
Here's something to make even the most carnivorous among us shudder: a burger that tastes something like human flesh.
It's not just the stuff of horror flicks anymore, thanks to two pioneering foodies out of London. For a publicity stunt to promote Season 5 of The Walking Dead, which premieres Oct. 13 in the U.K., they've created a zombie-inspired burger they say actually turned out "delicious."
Jim Thomlinson is a freelance chef who creates exotic dishes for special events. Emma Thomas is a creative director known for her zany public relations campaigns. Together they're Messhead, a hybrid of James' company London Mess and Thomas' firm Miss Cakehead.
When they got a call from FOX International Channels, which distributes the AMC show outside the U.S., asking them to come up with some kind of food campaign, they proposed a human-flavored dish.
Thomlinson took the assignment seriously, researching accounts of cannibalism. One came from the explorer William Seabrook, who procured human flesh from a hospital intern at the Sorbonne and ate it. As he wrote in his book Jungle Ways, "It was like good, fully developed veal, not young, but not yet beef. It was very definitely like that, and it was not like any other meat I had ever tasted."
Thomlinson also took inspiration from Issei Sagawa, a Japanese cannibal who was interviewed in 2010 by Vice, and the 1993 film Alive, based on the true story of a Uruguayan rugby team who survived a plane crash in the Andes Mountains by consuming some of the team's members. These sources all led him to look for a blend of meat that was like veal but pinker than beef. "I felt a big dodgy doing all the research ... I did feel a bit 'Oh god, what am I doing.' "
But ultimately, he says, "I've come up with something that is tasty ... I haven't made it deliberately disgusting."
In a taste test last week, he and Thomas invited a few people to try three different burgers and then help them choose the best one. The winning recipe features minced pork, minced veal and bone marrow, along with "pockets of fatness," Thomlinson says.
The lucky 250 who will attend a pop-up restaurant on Tuesday in East London called Terminus Tavern will also get to try the burgers, made by hand by Thomlinson at a local butcher shop.
Regardless of what's inside, the burgers will be presented in a way that's, dare we say it, tasteful. They'll be topped with Thomlinson's signature sauce, a bacon ketchup, along with lettuce and cheese, and served inside a sesame brioche bun. For an additional media event Monday night, he added in sweetbread nuggets accompanied by Bloody Marys.
For a guy who's actually known more for his desserts, Thomlinson says he's hoping to do more food stunts like the human burger. "This one's actually more my cup of tea ... dirty, greasy, kind of edgy."
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