Please Don’t Eat the Placentas!

I have to stop reading New York Magazine.

Most of the time I regard magazines as a treat. I read them when I’m taking a bath, when I’m traveling, or when I’m having a meal alone. They’re the potato chips of my reading life: I can grab a handful, feel a twinge of self-indulgence, and yet feel good about not destroying my appetite for more serious stuff.

But reading an article titled “The Placenta Cookbook” in the August 21 issues of New York explaining how “For a growing number of new mothers, there’s no better nutritional snack after childbirth than the fruit of their own labors”—literally—I sort of lost my appetite for, well,  almost everything.

Here’s an excerpt—and tell me it doesn’t it make you think of Swift’s Modest Proposal— which sounds exactly like some anti-feminist parody off a creepy woman-hating Web site: “A few years ago, a group of mothers organized a placenta picnic in Prospect Park where they compared placenta-eating experiences, and considered performing a mass burial of leftover parts they had kept. Loretta Jordan, a Bronx-based doula who organized the picnic, would go on to drink a piece of her daughter’s placenta in a ‘top-shelf Bloody Mary.’”

After thinking of Swift, the next person I thought of was good old Jean Kerr, author of Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.

(For my money, Kerr was one of the funniest writers of domestic humor America has ever produced. A predecessor of Bombeck’s, Kerr wrote more than essays and short pieces; she was also the author of the play Mary, Mary, which was the longest-running comedy in its day. That she was the wife of New York Times drama critic Walter Kerr did not, I think, have much to do with its success, given that she also had a few other, lesser plays which closed in a matter of weeks.)

The premise of the essay titled “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” is that you have to tell kids what not to do: Don’t tease the dog, don’t torture your younger brother, don’t put the turtles in the refrigerator to see what would happen to them in cold climates. The poor beleaguered parent, however, neglects to tell them not to eat the floral arrangement, having not imagined that any sane person of any age would do such a thing, and discovers upon her return home that, of course, the children have devoured the flowers, petals and all.

Insert gentle, domestic laughter here.

And, sure, “placenta products” have been advertised by cosmetic companies for years. Sure, we want to believe it is possible to erase the appearance of fine lines around our delicate eye area with the application of a product made from placenta extract. But I didn’t think we wanted to know whose placenta, however, or be given details concerning how it was extracted (I mean, you wouldn’t want to hear some woman yelling after you left Macy’s with eye cream made from placenta: “HEY! I wasn’t DONE with that yet!”)

Placenta eating, though—really? Is this where 60 years of the women’s rights movement has brought us? To a kitchen where some poor woman is cooking a rich woman’s afterbirth and making it into pills or jerky or some other kind of more palatable foodstuff so that the fancier woman can—taking narcissism to new heights—consume herself?


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