WARNING: The following article contains images that some people may find disturbing. What has been seen cannot be unseen…
No really. I’m not even kidding about this. There’s a high chance that the below photos will make squeamish readers violently and repeatedly ill. If Lifehacker articles were movies, this one would be a double feature of Caligula and 120 Days Of Sodom. By comparison, it makes our infamous bacon milkshake post look like My Neighbour Totoro. Consider this your final warning.
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Last month, I welcomed my baby daughter Claire into the world. I then cooked and ate her placenta for the express purpose of this article. (Never let it be said that Lifehacker journos aren’t committed to their jobs.) The experience was… unusual, and not something I’m likely to ever forget.
Placenta consumption is a complicated process — it involves more than just rummaging around in the afterbirth for something to eat. Below are the key steps you need to be aware of if you’re keen to join the placentophagy club. On tonight’s menu: placenta-and-tomato pizza!
STEP 1: Psyching Yourself Up
The first thing you need to do is formulate a satisfactory answer to the question: “why the HELL am I doing this? Am I CRAZY? Or what???”
The main reason to partake in human placentophagy is nutrition: the placenta is the main source of nourishment for the fetus in utero and is chock-full of iron, along with traces of hormones including progesterone, oxytocin, testosterone and estrogen.
The health benefits of the placenta are undisputed — why do you think other animals eat them? In fact, there are even professional services available that will encapsulate your placenta in the form of vitamin pills, as recently championed by Playboy bunny Holly Madison.
Placenta consumption is also supposed to help with mood, particularly post-natal depression, although this is disputed by some medical bodies. But even if it is a placebo, it will probably put a spring in your step; just like those heart-eating warriors of old.
If you happen to have Chinese ancestry, you could also use cultural tradition to convince yourself: placentas has been used in Chinese medicine for hundreds of years (so has ground tiger penis, but we won’t go there.)
On a final note, if you go through with this, you’ll always be the “winner” whenever a group of people discuss the weirdest/grossest thing they’ve ever eaten. (Especially if you cryptically answer “human”, which is technically valid).
We recommend embarking on Step 1 a few months before the actual birth — it will probably take this long to effectively psych yourself up.
STEP 2: Procuring The Placenta
This is more difficult than you might think. In the midst of the agony, beauty and chaos of childbirth, your placenta snacking plans are unlikely to be at the top of your mind. Priorities shift, and when you hold your newborn for the very first time, every other thought goes out the window.
Even if you do remember about the placenta, it’s an incredibly awkward thing to ask about (approximately 1,000 times more uncomfortable than buying condoms as a teenager in my estimation). Nobody is going to ask if you’d like to take the placenta home either, so you’re going to have to bring up the subject yourself. If you want to feel like a serial killer, pay close attention to their facial reactions — as you can imagine, it’s not a request they receive often.
If you manage to drum up the courage, one of the midwives will eventually hand you a medical waste bucket containing your future meal. Handily, the container is airtight which means you can spend some quality time with your new baby instead of rushing home to the fridge. (Mine was sitting at room temperature for at least six hours and I didn’t get sick.)
STEP 3: Choosing Your Recipe
Imagine if you only got to eat steak once or twice in your lifetime: how would you prepare it? How much research would you do?
This is arguably the most important step in the process and one that requires plenty of thought. After all, you only get one shot at this — if you muck things up, you’ll need to wait at least a year before you get to try again. (Note: We don’t condone making babies for the sole purpose of culinary afterbirth, in case you were wondering.)
The internet was actually less helpful than I was anticipating. Most online recipes appear to have been concocted by a gaggle of new-age hippies trying to out-gross each another. Here’s a sample recipe:
1/4 cup raw placenta
8oz V-8 juice
2 ice cubes
1/2 cup carrot.
Blend at high speed for 10 seconds
I might be hardcore, but I’m not that hardcore. If you do some hunting, you’ll be able to uncover some vaguely appetising options — placenta lasagna seems to be a popular option (if you’re squeamish, it also hides most of the offending meat from view). In the end, I plumped for a placenta pizza using my own recipe.
It’s a good idea to prepare all the other ingredients before you even look at the placenta — in addition to ensuring cleanliness, this will also decrease the odds of you backing out at the last minute.
STEP 4: Preparation
This is where shit gets real. Up to this point, the concept has been sufficiently abstract enough to seem palatable. But the moment you open that bucket, everything changes. You now have human organs on your kitchen bench — and your hands are about to get dirty. Seriously. Just look at that thing above. It looks like a photo-realistic Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Before you start slicing and dicing, you need to remove the placenta’s outer membrane. This is a hideous undertaking, and the only moment when I considered pulling the (mucus) plug on the whole process. But I somehow managed to persevere.
Once the membrane and umbilical cord had been removed, I began to chop the placenta into bite sized cubes — some medical authorities recommend avoiding the inner side due to possible contaminants from the baby.
Alone in my kitchen (my wife wisely wanted no part in this), I started to go to some pretty dark places. Is this how convicted cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer felt as he prepared a midnight snack? Your mind becomes curiously detached from the horror in front of you, until you realise your hands have become too sticky to hold the knife. Sticky with human blood.
Once you’ve finished the grim deed, you’ll probably need to have a sit down for a bit. I know I did. But the worst isn’t over… you’re still going to have to cook and eat this thing.
STEP 5: Ready, Steady, Cook!
I opted to sauté the placenta pieces in olive oil with diced onions and garlic. I ended up overcooking the meat due to paranoia (by this point, the placenta had been in our fridge for six days). The aroma was actually delicious, although that was mainly due to the onion and garlic which basically makes anything smell great.
Once thoroughly cooked, I arranged the placenta meat on my pre-prepared pizza and whacked it in the oven. There was no turning back now. I was about to tuck into my wife’s afterbirth.
STEP 6: Taste Test
I have to say, the meal wasn’t nearly as gross as I was expecting. It tastes somewhere between veal and liver, though with a slightly tougher consistency. It’s also a lot more flavoursome than your average supermarket meat; I was still smacking my lips hours afterwards.
While it’s definitely an acquired taste, I’d say placenta makes for a perfectly serviceable pizza topping — provided you don’t think too hard about what you’re eating.
All in all, I’m happy I embarked on this experiment. It’s one thing I can strike off my bucket list — and I still have the placenta bucket to prove it.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten? Share your stories in the comments section below.