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What Does Human Flesh Taste Like?

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Dr. Hannibal Lecter in a scene from
Dr. Hannibal Lecter in a scene from "Hannibal," which premiered Thursday, April 4, on NBC. (AP Photo/NBC, Brooke Palmer)

If there's one thing the "Hannibal" series gets right, it's making human meat look delicious.

The NBC show features infamous cannibal Hannibal Lecter as a culinary master, turning edible parts of the human body into Lung and Loin Bourguignonne, Tandoori Liver and thigh baked in clay with marrow. It's almost impossible to watch the show and not wonder whether we could stomach a well-seasoned steak de mon ami.

Of course, finding the answer for yourself isn't easy. Or ethical. Or legal, in most parts of the world. All we have are anecdotes from people who have snacked on homo sapien.

In 2007, psychotic German cannibal Armin Meiwes -- who's serving a life sentence for killing and eating a man -- likened his elaborate meal to pork, Spiegel Online reported at the time. In his first TV interview, Meiwes said his dish consisted of human steak in a green pepper sauce with croquettes and Brussels sprouts.

"I sauteed the steak of Bernd, with salt, pepper, garlic and nutmeg. I had it with Princess croquettes, Brussels sprouts and a green pepper sauce," he said. "The flesh tastes like pork, a little bit more bitter, stronger. It tastes quite good."

There are plenty of accounts from serial killers and Polynesian cannibals comparing human to pork, but not everybody agrees, according to The Smithsonian. In the 1920s, journalist William Seabrook traveled to West Africa for the ultimate taste test. In his book, "Jungle Ways," he says human cuts taste like veal:

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. It was so nearly like good, fully developed veal that I think no person with a palate of ordinary, normal sensitiveness could distinguish it from veal. It was mild, good meat with no other sharply defined or highly characteristic taste such as for instance, goat, high game, and pork have. The steak was slightly tougher than prime veal, a little stringy, but not too tough or stringy to be agreeably edible. The roast, from which I cut and ate a central slice, was tender, and in color, texture, smell as well as taste, strengthened my certainty that of all the meats we habitually know, veal is the one meat to which this meat is accurately comparable.

Alferd Packer, famous for killing and devouring five members of his Rocky Mountains prospecting party when provisions ran low, told a reporter in 1883 that breast muscle tissue was "the sweetest meat" he'd ever tasted, according to Real Clear Science.

Omaima Nelson, who cooked and ate her husband in 1991, echoed Packer's sentiment, calling the ribs she prepared "so sweet," The Los Angeles Times reported.

If you do legally obtain some human flank, check out our wine pairing guide, in which winery owner and rocker Maynard Keenan suggests pinot noir for facial tissue and shiraz paired with tongue.

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