Aztec Human Stew, Anyone?

My guess is that this is going to be a color piece on NPR in the next month or so: “Hufu”: — “The Healthy Human Flesh Alternative”. ‘Human’ and ‘Tofu’ — get it? As the FAQ puts it, “HufuTM was originally conceived of as a product for students of anthropology hungry for the experience of cannibalism but deterred by the legal and logistical obstacles.” And yes, there are “recipes”:

Most of the population of Papua New Guinea lives in the highlands. People in the highlands are as disgusted by cannibalism as the average American. Most Papua New Guinean people did not eat people before contact. The practice has been more or less obsolete for decades, in some cases a century or more. So this product furthers the unfair and demeaning exoticization of Papua New Guineans (to name just the area of my specialty). Let’s get that out of the way right there.

That being said, this idea is so bizarre and surrealistic I find it utterly fascinating — I mean if this isn’t a complexly overdetermined piece of material culture, what is? However, I can only give so many props to the guys who started it — it’s clearly derivative of the “toinfant”:


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

4 thoughts on “Aztec Human Stew, Anyone?

  1. I’m old enough to start thinking I’ve seen and heard most of it until something like this comes along. I got a good laugh at Hofu until I started reading about the cultural exploitation that accompanies it.

  2. If it’s not already posted there, this is definitely boing-worthy! It reminds me of a Hong Kong horror/comedy flick that came out a decade ago about steamed dim-sum buns filled with human-meat (I wonder what it was called…)

  3. Actually, tak, that thing about the steamed buns filled with human meat is not original to Hong Kong cinema. I don’t know the name of the movie you’re referring to, but I’m not surprised it turned up. There are historical references to “ren rou baozi” (human meat steamed-buns) from Song dynasty historical sources! I’m not sure whether the context was a famine, which is the usual background to cannibalism in the Chinese historical record, or some kind of twisted gourmand. But they were also an item on the menu at the tavern run by demonic innkeepers in a famous Ming dynasty novel (“The Water Margin” aka “All Men are Brothers”). Also, the medical literature often lists human flesh as a cure for certain diseases such as tuberculosis. Like a lot of the mythology and folklore in Hong Kong cinema, the “ren rou baozi” have quite an ancient historial background.

  4. This was on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart tonight. Samantha Bee interviewed the CEO who said that he originally planned to market it to anthropology students. To which SB responded “Gee, you could make hundreds of dollars.” Clearly she underestimates the market power of anthropologists.

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