When it doesn’t just “taste like chicken”—making sense of a difficult wine/food-pairing problem
In my fantasy world there wouldn’t be any such thing as wine/food pairing. There wouldn’t be food. We’d all just be awash in booze. But for my friends who enjoy solids now and then, following some loose guidelines can enhance the eating/drinking experience.
- Start by considering the dish. Is your meal…
- mild-tasting or intense?
- lean or fatty?
- acidic or creamy?
- Eliminate any varietals you dislike. There’s no sense purchasing a wine just to match a meal. While drinking a less-favorite wine with a well-matched meal may reveal the wine’s characteristics and increase your appreciation of it, your distaste for the vino may be insuperable. Buy a wine varietal you like.
- Balance the taste sensations by pairing mild with mild, acidic with acidic, and intense with intense.
- Choose tannic or acidic wines with high-fat foods; they cleanse the palate.
I’m worried that Hannibal Lecter might not be following these wine/food pairing guidelines. Let’s see whether Hannibal’s on the right track with his Chianti.
Not everybody knows what human meat tastes like. Chances are your local wine consultant doesn’t. Just try asking for a pairing suggestion. You’ll see hesitation in the consultant’s eyes, then fear—the fear that you’ll see through his/her bullshit answer and discern that he/she has no idea what to pair with maple-glazed human.
There’s plenty of specious information on the subject, so you have to be very careful that your wine consultant hasn’t fallen for the description circulated by promoters of the human meat substitute hufu (“contrary to popular belief, people do not taste like pork or chicken”), or that your consultant hasn’t merely sampled placenta, more akin to organ meats such as liver or kidney than, say, a human steak. No, you want an actual cannibal to advise you whether Chianti’s on the money with your human entrée.
Enter Armin Meiwes, a German man who gained fame in 2001 by killing and eating a volunteer he found through a website called the Cannibal Café. Not distinguishing between the Café’s intended satire and his own deviant appetites, Meiwes interviewed many candidates who expressed interest and then backed out, finally settling on Bernd Jürgen Brandes, whose penis he severed so the two could share it fried in garlic and butter. Meiwes gave the fully consenting Brandes a shitload of painkillers and bled him out in the bath, butchered and froze him, then spent the next ten months enjoying reduced grocery bills as he sampled Brandes every which way, even grinding up his bones to make flour.
This is a dude who would certainly know what human tasted like—at least one particular human—and he was happy to describe it in an interview:
“The flesh tastes like pork, a little bit more bitter, stronger. It tastes quite good.”
So Chianti would go okay with human for supper, especially with a tomato-based sauce, but Hannibal Lecter could do better. Especially with German cuisine featuring sauerkraut and other acidic notes, I’d lean toward a Riesling or a Sauvignon Blanc. If you’re dead set on a red wine, try a nice, light Beaujolais.
It’s really tough to find a great wine consultant. My own wine store has a stellar one, and I still don’t think he’d be up to speed on human dishes. Isn’t it wonderful to have the Internet?