OK, that headline? It's stolen. But this is the gist of it: Some women believe that one way of dealing with post-partum depression is for a new mom to eat her own placenta. The practice has a name, placentophagy. According to a story on MSNBC today, 80% of new moms have "baby blues" — sad feelings after giving birth. The theory is that devouring the placenta helps them feel better but there are no studies on the efficacy of the practice for humans. "The placenta does produce estrogen and progesterone," says Mavis Schorn, the director of the nurse midwifery program at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. "So the theoretical idea is that it may help, but there's absolutely no research on it." The whole placenta-as-food thing reminded us of Harper's magazine, which once published part of a transcript from an English cooking show on which human placenta was on the menu. After the jump, the best bits from the organ-eating Brits.
(In the transcript below, "Rosie" is the 19-year-old new mom, "Mary" is the grandmother, "Sue" is a family friend and amateur cook, and "Fearnley-Whittingstall" is the television host. Elllipses denote where we've cut out material.)
VOICE-OVER: Mary's best friend, Sue, is a fellow social worker and a keen cook. Mary has asked her to take charge of all the cooking for Indie Mo's party. Sue's devotion to her friends will be expressed in the twenty-odd dishes she is planning for the party, but she is also rising to the challenge of a completely new ingredient.
ROSIE: The placenta is going to be cooked and made into a placenta pate-I'm not quite sure what the recipe is for that.
SUE: The real scary bit is the placenta, because I've never even actually seen one. I've seen photographs, but I've never actually seen one live, I've never had my hands on one. I don't know what they look like, what they feel like, what the smell is-I've got no conception of it at all, so that is going to be the real nail-biter.
VOICE-OVER: Immediately after Indie Mo's birth two months ago, Mary brought the placenta back home to store in the freezer.
MARY: [Laying the umbilical cord in a large serving dish] There's Indie Mo's cord ... fresh. A very beautiful thing. [Opens a plastic bowl with the placenta and placental blood] Have a look in here. This is Rosie's placenta. Waste not, want not. Have a smell. Isn't it lovely? Lovely and fresh?
FEARNLEY-WHITTINGSTALL: It smells completely clean.
MARY: What do you think, Rosie?
MARY: Yes, gory. It would have been good if we'd eaten it straightaway. That was our plan. Had things gone the way we wanted, Rosie was going to eat it straight after-we were going to have a little fry-up. Dad was looking forward to it.
VOICE-OVER: The challenge in working with a new ingredient is guessing how it will behave when cooked. After the excess blood has been rinsed from the placenta, Sue suggests slicing it up to check out the texture.
FEARNLEY-WHITTINGSTALL: [Watching as Sue cuts the placenta into strips] Look at that in the middle. It's quite meaty, isn't it?
SUE: Almost purple. Really rich looking.
FEARNLEY-WHITTINGSTALL: The outside is spongy, but the inside-
SUE: The inside is quite solid.
FEARNLEY-WHITTINGSTALL: Quite dense.
VOICE-OVER: The onions and garlic come out of the pan, and the placenta is fried quickly in butter and oil.
SUE: It seems to be staying fairly tender. It's not contracting a lot.
VOICE-OVER: Sue's next inspiration is a baptism by fire: using a dash of cognac.
[Sue pours the cognac over the frying placenta, which then bursts into flames]
FEARNLEY-WHITTINGSTALL: Whoa! That is elemental, isn't it?
SUE: It's earth and air and wind and fire.
SUE: [Cutting the cooked placenta into bite-sized pieces] Oh, it's so tender. The knife's just gliding through it.
MARY: [Entering kitchen] Look at that! Beautiful. Let's taste it. [Takes a bite] Go for it, Rosie.
ROSIE: [Chews] It's not bad.
FEARNLEY-WHITTINGSTALL: Mary, what do you think?
MARY: Lovely ... You can taste the garlic. [Chewing] Texture's nice. Not too strong. Not gamy.
FEARNLEY-WHITTINGSTALL: Quite mild, is it?
MARY: Mild, lovely smell.
ROSIE: Not as chewy as liver. It's nice.
VOICE-OVER: Next Sue blends half the placenta with a little butter, the onions and garlic, and chopped parsley and sage.
FEARNLEY-WHITTINGSTALL: [Watching Sue use a spatula to remove the placenta from the blender] That could sit up on some toast really nicely.
SUE: Yes. Yes, it could.
MARY: [Carrying the mousse, which has been shaped with a Bundt mold, to the buffet table] It's got a bit of the old cervix look about it, doesn't it?
SUE: Absolutely, dear. I thought it was very appropriate.