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Secrets of the Kitchen

Every major city has its share of secret or 'underground' restaurants catering to more exotic tastes. In London, for instance, there is a restaurant that offers sensation-seekers rats cooked every way imaginable, including rat sausages.

Another London restaurant has pigeon on the menu. Not country pigeons but the 'flying rats' variety found in cities. A guy was arrested recently for using traps around Trafalgar Square to catch pigeons he sold to various eating establishments.

Yet another London restaurant caters to insect-lovers. Beetles, locusts, grasshoppers, worms, grubs, larvae and maggots are all served to you live and wriggling on your plate. In parts of Africa these are the popular equivalent of a hot dog. Good source of protein too.

Other low-key but expensive restaurants offer regular banquets consisting entirely of rare, exotic birds and animals on the United Nations Endangered Species list. The harder a thing is to come by, the more some people want it.

These kind of restaurants have to keep a low profile. You won't find them listed in any regular restaurant guides. They depend on word of mouth and personal recommendations to get their customers. It's not that they're afraid of health inspectors but that they know that an outraged public - whipped up by activists and tabloids - could quickly drive them out of business. When it comes to food what most people don't know won't hurt them.

Even more secretive are the handful of restaurants which occasionally serve long pig, or human flesh, to their more adventurous clientele. As in Stanley Ellin's short story, The Speciality of the House (with its succulent speciality, 'lamb Amirstan'), these tend to be special occasions happening only two or three times a year.

Obviously no modern restaurant could get away with serving human meat on a regular basis. A couple of years ago a Chinese restaurant in Brussels was closed down after horrified health inspectors found body-parts belonging to several women in the freezer. Police were forced to admit that such things happen more often than is widely suspected.

More recently, on September 3rd, 1996, bailiffs arrived at the Baalbeck, a Middle Eastern restaurant in the Woluwe-Saint-Lambert suburb of Brussels, to reclaim kitchen equipment that hadn't been paid for. One of the men noticed a hand hanging from a freezer. Police then found the mutilated remains of three women in various kitchen freezers.

In 1999 three men of Lebanese origin were found guilty of torturing and murdering the three women. The men claimed a religious motive. Two of the women were related to the men by marriage. They had supposedly been unfaithful to their husbands, and Islamic justice demanded that the women be punished by slow and painful deaths. The third woman, a 70-year-old Belgian, was a neighbour who had become suspicious about goings-on in the restaurant.

(Students of the occult will be aware that the god Baal was the supreme divinity of the Phoenicians and Cathaginians to whom children were sarcrificed to ensure successful harvests. In Christian demonology, Baal has become the Grand Duke of Hell. He is considered the chief general of the Armies of Hell and a master of the East.)

Disposing of incriminating bodies through restaurant kitchens is a popular means of disposal with religious cults which often run restaurants as a fund-raising sideline. It is even more popular with organised crime which controls hundreds, if not thousands, of restaurants in the U.S. alone and no doubt has an endless supply of 'raw material' to recycle. It has also been suggested that mob-controlled hamburger chains are involved in this human recycling. This is not so unbelieveable when one remembers that a mob-controlled pizza chain was used to front a heroine distribution network a few years ago, and a popular chain of soft drinks stands was used to distribute grass.

While there certainly are restaurants that serve human flesh to trusted (or unsuspecting) customers, those with a taste for it are more likely to find what they crave by being accepted into a circle of grands gourmets. These are groups of elite gourmets and epicureans, some of whom are so rich and influential that they are almost above the law. Basically these are people who can afford to buy any forbidden experience imaginable, and are also cautious and clever enough to get away with it.

Is this the Carvery?
(French Police Archives)

Gourmet cannibal circles usually meet about twice a year. Meetings are very well organised down to the last detail, and security is extremely strict. The usual procedure is for a large house in the country to be rented for a short time by a third party with a plausible but false identity. The house would rarely be used to host more than one banquet.

The cannibal feast is sometimes the highlight of a long weekend of entertainment and debauchery. Sometimes the feast is the prelude to an unconvincing 'Satanic' ritual, or, more likely, an elaborate orgy. The guests often wear masks - but not always. The exhibitionist host of one European cannibal circle delighted in inviting well-known entertainers and politicians to his banquets. To the uninitiated, the meal was an enjoyable evening of epicurean excess. For the host, the exquisite 'forbidden' quality of the experience was further accentuated by the presence of famous people enthusing about a wonderful meal, blissfully unaware that they were participating in murder and cannibalism!

The 'main course' is usually the climax of a lavish, beautifully-presented banquet that would have made a Roman emperor jealous. Preparation of the piece de resistance is undertaken either by a top chef who is a trusted initiate of the group, or by a 'guest' chef brought in from another country specially for the occasion. A first class chef is likely to receive a six-figure sum for a few days' work as a reward for both his artistry and his silence.

The essential - reluctant - 'guest' at the center of the feast is most likely to be a young woman in her teens or early twenties. Ideally she would be a runaway or someone with few people to miss her. Nothing is left to chance and she would have been thoroughly investigated before being selected.

Traditionally, the chosen one would have been befriended and well cared for by an agent of the circle. In the weeks leading up to the feast, she will have been carefully kept out of sight and fed only the finest food - literally 'fattened up'. It's hard not to see in this a parallel with the role of the sacrificial victim in some ancient religions.

Jonathan Swift once famously made the "modest proposal" that famine in Ireland could be averted by feeding unwanted children to the poor. In fact, as always, it is the rich who eat the poor. In continental Europe - France and Italy in particular - cannibal circles seem to have become a repository for aristocratic attitudes and self-justifying notions of divine right and the droit de seigneur. For Old Money Europeans, cannibalism is not just a fashionable 'forbidden pleasure' but can be a satisfying means of assertion and even revenge.

Organised cannibal circles are said to be active in London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Rome, New York and Mexico. New groups are also believed to have sprung up in Russia and the wealthier East European countries since the collapse of communism, but these are considered relatively unsophisticated compared to the longer-established circles of western Europe.

Like most secret societies, cannibal circles often have a more visible 'outer circle' as a means of attracting and assessing potential initiates. Anyone wanting to be accepted into the inner circle should first make themselves known and accepted on the exotic food/gourmet circuit. Four qualities are essential for success: courage, discretion, a strong stomach and plenty of patience.

thigh anyone?
(Belgian Police Archives)

Every kitchen should have one!
(courtesy of Sylvia Starshine)

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