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The Reluctant Cannibals

The Reluctant Cannibals - Ian Flitcroft The Reluctant Cannibals is a delicious tale dripping with gallows humor and British wit. It’s the zany story of Oxford intelligentsia who devote themselves to the gastronomical pursuit of sampling exotic and exquisite cuisine. While academics consuming new foods may seem like a dry topic for a novel, as the name suggest, the plot quickly takes a macabre twist.After Professor Plantagenet is diagnosed with a heart condition due to his years of decadence, he submits a bizarre request to the shadow faculty of gastronomic science–one that teaches them just how far they’re willing to go in the name of the perfect bite. Nothing goes smoothly as they have to deal with curing techniques, student rivalries and arrests for grave robbing. And since every boy’s club needs a Vernon Wormer, they must also contend with Vice-Chancellor Ridgeway whose greatest desire is to see them disbanded.From walls lined with leather bound volumes, to the ghost who haunts the stone cellar, The Reluctant Cannibals has tons of atmosphere and style. There’s more than enough quirk and black humor on each page to insure no part was a drag. The footnotes peppered throughout were an amusing touch, and the history of cannibalism was more interesting than it should have been.The Reluctant Cannibals is for anyone who enjoys their humor dark, and for the gourmands who will appreciate the references. Oh, and of course, for all those determined cannibals out there.What I learned from reading The Reluctant Cannibals- The Shingnon monks of Yamagata practiced self-mummification while still alive. The practice was called Sokushinbutsu--which was austerity to the point of their death and mummification. Their founder, Kuukai, believed enlightenment could be reached physical pain. It took 10 years for them to mummify themselves, and though many tried, only around 2 dozen successful mummies have been found.To begin they consumed only nuts and seeds for 1,000 days while engaging in strenuous physical activity meant to strip them of all body fat.For the next 1,000 days they ate only roots and tree bark and drank a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree which caused vomiting, severe dehydration and made their tissues poisonous to insects such as maggots.The monk would then lock himself in a stone tomb sitting in the lotus position. Everyday he would ring a bell tied to string through a small opening to let those outside know he was still alive. When the bell stopped ringing, the opening would be sealed.After another 1,000 days the monks would open the tomb to see if the mummification had been successful. Japan has outlawed the practice and it is no longer practiced by any Buddhist sect.- Johnathan Swift, of Gulliver's Travels fame, penned a satirical pamphlet in 1729 which encouraged cannibalism. Commonly referred to as A Modest Proposal, he suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food to the rich. Meant to mock the heartlessness of people's attitudes toward the poor, he lists several ways a child could be cooked and makes detailed calculations of the economic benefits of such a practice.-Kuru is an incurable degenerative neurological disease (similar to mad cow) which was endemic in the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea and spread through their ritual funeral practice of cannibalism. The Fore believed by eating the deceased they kept the persons life force within the community. Researchers in the 1960's were able to trace the outbreak of kuru to a single infected individual who lived on the outskirts of the village in 1900.