In case you plan to stop by British chef James Thomlinson's Terminus Tavern pop-up restaurant in London on Tuesday to sample one of his Walking Dead-themed human flesh burgers, let us assure you: No actual humans were harmed in the making of the sandwiches.
But the burgers, created to celebrate the upcoming fifth season of the AMC zombie apocalypse drama, are meant to mimic the taste and texture of human flesh, and Thomlinson went right to the source — or rather, sources — when concocting his recipe: cannibals. One of those sources was the late New York Times journalist and author William Seabrook, who once convinced a medical student to procure for him hunks of human meat that he then turned into, according to him, tasty vittles.
"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," Seabrook wrote in his 1931 book Jungle Ways. "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."
Thomlinson, who along with London food artist Miss Cakehead was hired by U.K. The Walking Dead network Fox to stir up something special for Season 5, tells Yahoo TV that descriptions from Seabrook and serial killers such as Dorangel Vargas, Alfred Packer, and Issei Sagawa led him to create a burger that is comprised of veal, pork, and bone marrow, and ends up tasting "really good" and — "different."
"I'm hoping that they're going to go down really, really well," says the London Mess chef, who will be front and center at Tuesday's pop-up at Corbet Place Bar at the Old Truman Brewery in East London. "They're really tasty, [but] it does taste different. It's not something that you are used to when you are putting a burger in your mouth really… It's not a very strong beefy flavor, which you expect. It's actually quite a fairly mild sort of taste, but the combination of the veal and pork together in a mince just gives you a sensation that it's not a meat that you have tried before. Which is what I was trying to go for basically with the simulation of human flesh."
And the texture?
"It's really good. It's really, really juicy actually. The bone marrow really helps that along, gives it an extra juiciness," says Thomlinson. "I have used very good quality meat, as well. So nothing is rubbery or chewy or anything. It's just very nice and tender and juicy."
The burgers, which will be handed out free to those whose tummies can handle the idea of a snack that's supposed to make you feel like Hannibal Lecter, will be dressed simply, with lettuce, Gouda cheese, and Thomlinson's signature bacon ketchup on a sesame seed brioche bun. (Too bad they weren't launched earlier this year, when they could have been washed down with the goat brains beer that a Philadelphia brewery created to honor TWD).
The burgers will also come with a colorful wrapper that contains several nuggets of info the chef learned during his research, like the fact that cannibalism is not illegal in most countries, and that the average human body contains enough protein to meet the nutritional requirements of 60 adults.
The Terminus Tavern pop-up, meanwhile, is designed to look like a scene from The Walking Dead Season 4 finale, when Mary (Denise Crosby) was (wo)manning a grill, cooking up some protein slabs that — no spoilers here — may or may not have been the remains of former Terminus dwellers.
"We are recreating that scene completely, and all my staff will be dressed in the same sort of gear that the actors wore in the scene," says Thomlinson, who also watched the 1993 movie Alive for inspiration while coming up with the human flesh burger project.
And speaking of those — such as the survivors of the Andes plane crash who resorted to cannibalism to survive — who've noshed on people, would Thomlinson ever consider tucking into a human rump roast if given the opportunity?
"Would I try it if it was actual human flesh?" he asks. "Actual human flesh? Hmmm, if it was [in order] to survive, yes. This is the only grounds where I would be saying yes.
"But you really wanted me to say 'yes,' didn't you?"
The Walking Dead premieres in the U.S. on Oct. 12, at 9 p.m. on AMC; The Walking Dead premieres in the U.K. on Oct. 13, at 9 p.m. on Fox.