It is always like this. When you go eat somewhere new with new people, at some point they realize you’re not touching the meat, and suddenly vegetarianism becomes the agenda of the day. It couldn’t have been different yesterday at Marcelo’s, especially because we are at the river shore. Also, it was Easter holiday, when you are supposed to eat fish because you’re not supposed to have any red meat.
There were lots of fried fish and a caldeirada (fish cooked in a huge casserole with lots of water and spices – this one had also tomatoes and cooked eggs inside). I was eating rice (how I love Brazilian rice!), and an egg I took from the caldeirada (bad idea), Brazilian vinagrette (a sort of sauce made of vinegar, tomatoes, onions, pimentos and spices) and farina. As usual, someone asked: “Don’t you want some fish?” and Rico answered before I could say anything: “She doesn’t eat fish”. “Oh… She’s vegetarian…”, they realized. Since we started with the fish, we didn’t have to go through the “Not even chicken?”, “Not even fish?” thing. And that was it. Not one more word about it. Interesting, I thought.
Everybody was too busy eating. After we finished and were talking around the table, suddenly this guy, out of thin air looks at me and shoots: “You only eat foliage?” (Você so come folha?). I looked to this huge man, sitting about 1,5 meter from me, and saw how this vegetarian thing was puzzling him. He was really big; he was tall and quite overweighed. He’s an army man, so he has this very shot hair, almost bald. I tried to explain that I eat EVERYTHING but meat, but there was no use, the vegetarian issue was out in the open. Or better saying, the meat issue was out in the open.
All of a sudden everybody started telling all theirs exotic meat experiences. “When you’re taking the survival course in army training, you have to eat anything the jungle offers you. There was this time that they did this huge caldeirada with everything we could find. Then there is someone that serves everybody and you have to eat whatever’s in your plate. There was this round piece of meat I knew was from a snake and all I could do was wish it didn’t come to my plate”, the huge guy said proudly to everyone.
“When we were kids, my mom would feed us alligator meat. It was kind of good, but we wouldn’t have eaten if we knew what it was.”, Edilene, Marcelo wife remembered. Than it was Marcelo’s turn: “You know what I like? Monkey. Hum… I just love to eat monkey hands, they are delicious!”. “Oh my god! I can’t eat monkey hand, it look too much like a human hand, I can’t help but think it is a human hand!”, his wife said with disgust.
That was it! From vegetarianism we have gonne to exotic meats and now to cannibalism! “You know that nowadays there are still Indian tribes that eat human meat?”. Of course I know, but of course I answered: “Reaaally?”, with a very surprised face! “Yes! They used to eat the enemies, but know they can’t anymore. So now, whenever a great warrior dies, they have this ritual where the whole tribe eats his flesh. Everybody has to eat some.”
Of course, Marcelo, friends of the Yanomami, have been to one of these rituals. He was with a friend who have eaten and kind of obliged him to eat too because he couldn’t deny it during the ritual. The truth is they don’t do a barbecue of the dead guy (in ancient times they did), so you’re not really eating human flesh. They incinerate the corpse and mix the ashes with a sort of banana porridge (mingau). You actually eat banana mingau with human ashes.
Nevertheless, Marcelo, as everybody else, was so disgusted about this experience that I couldn’t help but think what makes human flesh so special that it became such a taboo eat it when you eat all kinds of animal flesh without a second thought. Even with pleasure. I was disgusted during the whole conversation, so human meat was only one more sort among all others.