The best of mother earth
She's always considered herself an adventurous eater, but an offer of placenta stopped Deirdre Morrissey in her tracks
Published 24/01/2010 | 05:00
A friend of mine, a real earth mother, recently gave birth to a beautiful boy. It was a home birth, which is not that unusual, but she chose my boyfriend as her second birthing partner. I have a lot to thank her for because he's no longer a virgin in the child-delivering department, but now he has experienced the magic of childbirth without me.
And I'm not the only one who thought this was an extraordinary situation -- the midwife, who has been delivering babies naturally for 25 years, from the Middle East to the Australian outback, said it was the first time she saw a woman choose two male birthing partners.
On the day itself, after hours of vigorous contractions, screaming of obscenities and white-knuckled hand squeezing, the messiah was born.
Immediately afterward, the new mummy went to the toilet to relieve herself of her placenta. She rescued it in a bucket. Then, like it was the most normal thing in the world, she asked my boyfriend to freeze it because she intended to eat it later! So he, casually, took what looked something like an octopus to the kitchen sink, washed it, put it in a ziplock bag and popped it in the freezer.
Two months later, they defrosted the placenta and, following a gourmet French recipe, her partner minced it, cooked it with onions and garlic, and made a pate with it. Nice!
They invited a few close friends and family over for a formal introduction to their baby. As everyone ogled the child, the daddy arrived into the sitting room holding a plate of homemade brown bread smeared, of course, with placenta pate. With a grin, he made a little speech: "One of my friends buried his partner's placenta under a big tree in their garden," he said, "and the tree proceeded to wither and die. He thought he'd destroyed the roots when he dug into the ground. However, what really happened is that placenta is so nutrient-rich that for the first year plants in close proximity find it impossible to grow. On that note, who's up for trying some of the most nutritious food on the planet?"
A silence chilled the air: my heart beat double-time and my cheeks burned with embarrassment. This shouldn't be an issue for me. I eat meat. Pudding and sausage are my regular Sunday brunch. My granny forced cow's tongue and liver on me when I was five. I enjoyed foie gras until I found out why it's a delicacy. I've tried frog's legs, caviar and fish eyes. At a taboo-food night in Ukiyo restaurant I once unwittingly ate sheep's brain.
Startled, I heard this dude with a Californian accent say: "I'd be honoured to try some." None of us really knew him; he was crashing on my friend Laura's couch. (Laura and he are couch surfers. Whenever they travel abroad they stay on some randomer's couch: the website is www.couchsurfing.com.) I was dumbfounded. This daredevil didn't even know the mother. What if she was riddled with Mad Cow Disease, or worse?
It's very risky moving from one stranger's couch to another; they never know what thrills lie around the corner. By living like this, he gets to return to LA and brag that the Guinness is great in Ireland although they prefer Murphys in Cork, they eat blaas in Waterford and the placenta pate in Dublin is spectacular.
Then my boyfriend, who is the baby's godfather and a strict vegetarian forever, tried some. He said it tasted just like pate. I taunted him that he had gone from vegetarian to cannibal in one bite. He argued that the placenta is not really part of the human body, given that women are not born with it and they are only carrying it for a temporary period.
Her parents accepted some without fuss. Needless to say, Laura took two pieces; and then Emma, who's usually game for anything, declined. Delighted to have a comrade, I felt more comfortable and got ready to refuse it. Then again, Emma does think a lot of things are gross -- like, she thought it was gross that my boyfriend was present at the home birth, and totally embarrassing that Rory saw our friend's lady bits.
Before I knew it, I was chewing on placenta pate. It was freaky, but I played it cool and thanked them for the offering. I ate the pate calmly, but inside I was screaming. I'm not sure what it tasted like because I chewed it so fast and chased it down with scalding hot tea. There was a vague aftertaste of chicken liver pate.
I got a kick out of ticking another thing off my 'things to do before you die' list. A lot done, a lot more to do!