Wednesday, April 19, 2006


How to prepare a placenta

Actor and Scientology devotee Tom Cruise announced his plan to eat his firstborn's placenta. It's doubtful that his wife Katie Holmes could have objected even if she had wanted to because she was supposed to be giving the baby a silent birth. The theory, I believe, is that if the mother will just shut up, the baby won't notice what's happened until it's too late. The realization that you've been born is thus postponed until sometime around puberty.

But I digress. With Cruise's pregnancy-induced food fetish we anticipate a demand for placenta recipes. Maxine Frith, Social Affairs Correspondent for The Independent, has selected some of the best from the international scene.

The Chinese do not like to distinguish nutrition from medicine, so this recipe uses placenta in much the same way you would use dried toad. It is prepared with

rice wine, herbs and ginger before the mixture is dried, and it is then taken in capsules three times a day by the mother during the first month after birth.

Tom Cruise would be a fool to try this. Chinese medicine is geared to the individual, and when they say this medicine is for the mother, they mean the mother.

From Germany Frith finds the recipe for a skin lotion—

Some German women mix their placentas into clarified butter and use it to treat their babies' skin ailments.

If placentas become a fad, a product such as this can be expected on the shelves at Wal-Mart. "Made with genuine Placentol" the bottle might read.

In French cuisine you treat the placenta as you would any questionable foodstuff—you blend it into a pâté.

The television chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall caused outrage in 1998 when his TV Dinners programme showed him making a paté out of a woman's placenta, which was then eaten by her and her family. The Broadcasting Standards Commission censured the programme, saying it had "breached a convention" and that some complainants had compared it to cannibalism. The chef said he was happy with his creation, which he said tasted "not unlike tripe". Others have compared it to beef or foie gras.

Of course today's consumer demands foods that are lighter, less filling and prepared with an eye on health—

One woman on the British website Mothers 35 Plus tells how her placenta was put in a blender with a glass of V8 fruit juice and served to her by her midwife. "To my delight and surprise, it was great!" she wrote.

This makes an excellent accompaniment to brunch. When served in the evening vodka and a celery stick (or pickled string bean) may be added. As a cocktail it is known as a Bloody Membrane.

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