As many of you already know, the original title for George A. Romero’s genre-defining film Night of the Living Dead was actually Night of the Flesh Eaters. In a number of reviews, articles, and publications, the zombies themselves are often referred to as ghouls; an Arabic term describing a monstrous creature that would dwell in cemeteries and feast upon corpses.
In fact, this concept so was so heinous that it only entered Western culture during the 18th century via Antoine Galland’s translation of the Arabian Nights. The degenerate notion of cannibalism quickly turned to intellectual curiosity, and eventually became an obsession in the 1920s when William Seabrook traveled to West Africa with the intention of joining a cannibal tribe to taste human flesh. He described the experience in his book Jungle Ways:
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 … 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.
Seabrook later confessed in his autobiography that he actually obtained samples of human flesh from a hospital in Paris, which he cooked and ate himself. Regardless, his depraved experiment remains the most reliable description of cannibalism for the Western world.
Accounts provided to anthropologists from other African tribes are often contradictory; suggesting that human meat is sweet, bitter, tender, tough, or fatty. But this discrepancy may be due to the method itself. For example; the Azande would prepare a stew, while Sumatrans apparently served human flesh with salt and lemon, and those in the South Pacific wrapped human meat in leaves before cooking them in a pit. Various practices continue even today!
But obviously zombies won’t take the time to cook the flesh of their victims. And despite the ramblings of madmen and serial killers, Seabrook’s account is the most meticulous, reasoned, and scientific observation we have regarding human flesh; which apparently tastes like veal.
If you’re still obsessed with the taste of human flesh, please seek help immediately! However, if you’d simply like to learn more about William Seabrook and his weird foray into cannibalism, please read his original book Jungle Ways, or check out this article from the Smithsonian.