Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Myth Week/"They Actually Eat That:" Mermaids?!

We are as shocked to see mermaids on "They Actually Eat That" as you are. Hell, it's even hard to see the logic in eating things like sea cows, the bases for mermaids as we know them. Let's not get into eating people with sirenomelia, either.

Please don't eat me!
 They Actually Eat That?! 

So let's say that mermaids do exist. Yes, people would eat them. Sorry, Ariel, but Japan loves picking on almost anything that swims in the sea. Humans do not spare dolphins or sharks. Mermaids are fair game.

Mermaids are among the few mythological creatures famous for being eaten. Sure, there are plenty of stories about people drinking dragon or unicorn blood (drinking dragon blood in particular SHOULD be a staple of the genre, but more on that later), but have you ever heard of anyone eating the flesh of a phoenix, dragon, or unicorn? It just sounds weird.

Or deep-fried monkey-fish.

In Japan, mermaids (ningyo) are quite different from the attractive fish maidens we in the West have come to expect. They look more like the stitched-together Fiji Mermaid: part primate, part fish, all uncanny valley. Ningyo supposedly have scales that glitter like gold and beautiful voices, and if one washes up on the beach, expect a war. They are also apparently REALLY tasty if you don't toss them back in sheer WTF.

To put things in perspective, even their PET fish have human faces sometimes.

 To be fair, Japan has a lot of weird things in its waters. A surprising amount of abyssal sea life, including frilled sharks, oarfish, and chimeras, has washed up in Japan. Even their koi sometimes come out with strangely human faces. They have reason to think that something out of the sea might not only look humanoid, but also have flesh to die for. Oh, if only.

Besides tasting good, mermaid flesh has a surprising side-effect: It makes one nigh-immortal. Legend has it that one man took mermaid flesh home to his daughter after getting a tiiiny bit drunk at a party. She ate some and did not age beyond 16 for over 800 years. The girl had many children, but it broke her heart to repeatedly see her friends and family age and perish while she stayed youthful. She eventually became a nun and died in a cave. She is known in legend as Yao Bikuni- the 800 year-old nun.

We are not endorsing mermaid sushi. If anything, stay the hell away from eating monkey-fish or ningyo. Or just watch Rumiko Takahashi's Mermaid Forest, a series that tells a different story about eating mermaid meat. Then think about trying mermaids again.

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