Rank #379 of 1949
About my essay:
Story of the most important dish I ever cooked in my life — my wife’s placenta. She believed that eating her own placenta would help her recuperate from a difficult and, at times, life threatening pregnancy.
My wife’s idea was the worst since Rocco DiSpirito decided to don a ruffled flamenco shirt for Dancing with the Stars. In fact, this was the kind of thing even Tom Cruise made fun of (and that guy believes in alien galactic dictators), but he never actually did anything about it.
"Honey, if it’s too crazy for Tom Cruise, maybe we shouldn’t do it."
Diane didn’t hear me, though. She was focused as a drone aircraft and wanted only helpful suggestions.
“What about a Sloppy Diane?” I offered.
Not even a chuckle — instead, she proclaimed, “I have one placenta and I need it cooked right.”
I was only half-kidding about the Sloppy Diane. I thought it’d be a tasty, fun way to ingest something the Uruguayan rugby team wouldn’t touch, even if their plane crashed in the Andes. Diane was serious about this and believed (like others) that eating her placenta would help her recuperate.
Honestly, I was clueless, frightened and more than a little repulsed by the thought of cooking my wife’s afterbirth. Jesus! Even the word “afterbirth” is enough to turn gut.
This crimson, spongy organ, the size of a whoopee cushion, sprawling with thick veins, dripping in amniotic fluid, urine and meconium and trailed by a slimy umbilical cord was how my baby fed and pooped all these months. Now it sat waiting, sealed in industrial-strength Tupperware and bagged in a sack emblazoned with the international symbol for biohazard.
Since I knew of no butcher who handled human placenta, I had to process it myself. I performed this in my bathtub, which literally became a bloodbath. Sweeney Todd would be proud.
With madness encroaching, I had to remember that this was an especially difficult pregnancy for Diane. Her debilitating fatigue (combined with a dangerous breech birth and concern of post-partum depression) motivated me to do anything for her speedy recovery, even cook an organ from her own body.
This would be the most important meal I would ever make for her. Yes, more important than the cold sesame peanut noodles that impressed her the first time she came over, even more special than the anniversary oxtail I spent hours braising and almost ruined because I had the flame on too high.
Cooking well at this moment was urgent because this was her placenta. If I wanted to maximize its healing benefits, there could be no placenta cassoulet or anything fancy. I’d cook it simply by cutting the usable portion into chunks, simmering gently in water until medium rare, seasoning it with sesame oil, and then finally adding a splash of Xiaoxing wine. The wine would soak into her empty stomach and facilitate the absorption of the placenta’s vital nutrients — anything else was nonessential.
How did I know if I cooked well? My wife was back on her feet in just two days, cradling our new baby with a smile on her face. She then gazed up at me and simply said, “Thanks, I was delicious.”