The Joy of (Placental) Cooking

Cook bookToday, I’m going to discuss a topic which is closely connected to my last post about the umbilical cord.  In fact, it is directly attached to it.  Today, were talking about that unsung hero of the maternity ward.

The placenta.

(Warning: if you are squeamish at all, you might want to skip this one.)

(Which just makes you want to read on, doesn’t it?)

About 15 or 20 minutes after I delivered my baby, after the camera bulbs died down and the doctor moved on to the next delivery, I unceremoniously gave birth to the placenta. This poor little organ that works overtime to keep the baby growing throughout the pregnancy hardly gets any press when, at last, it crawls out to see the light of day.  Kind of like the clean-up crew for the collapsed coal mine.  They bravely descend into the abyss 30 minutes after the last trapped miner emerges alive in that capsule, but by the time they come back up with their dirty buckets and mops in hand, the last of the press trucks have driven away and the souvenir vendors have even gone home.  Only their mothers stay to make sure that they made it out safely, as was the case with me and my sweet little placenta.

A thoughtful nurse made sure that I got a good look at my own inner organ. While I was basking in the glow of just having delivered my baby — and touching up my hair and lipstick one more time — she brought over a stainless bowl for me to see.  Yes, a stainless bowl remarkably like the kind in which I mix my brownie batter.  About the same size, too.  Sitting inside was something that looked like a fresh cow’s liver with a hose attached to it.

“And here’s your placenta.”

At a loss as to what I should say — “Thank you,” “Is it a boy or a girl?” “It’s, it’s…so perfect,” “Can I hold it?” — I simply waved it goodbye as the nurse wheeled it away.

Well done, my good and faithful servant…

There was something familiar about the way the nurse did that whole presentation, then it dawned on me: Chinese seafood restaurants!  You know — where you pick out a fish from the bubbling water tank, and the cook brings out that catch in a bowl to show it to you?  He proudly declares, “Here’s your fish,” to which you say, “Perfect!” They then whisk it away, only to bring it out a short while later on a serving platter, deliciously cooked, ready to be consumed.

Speaking of cooking, I once read that some cultures celebrate birth by actually cooking and eating the placenta.  (I know — ewww, right?)  There’s even a term for it: placentophagy.  They believe it is good for the mother’s health, particularly if she’s prone to postpartum depression.  I would personally choose medication over cannibalism any day, but two things immediately come to mind:

1.  How do you phrase the invitation for this feast?  Hey, we’re having a barbecue…

2.  How do you cook it? Honey, where’s my placentophagy recipe book?

A quick Google search revealed (I kid you not) some “favorite” recipes: Placenta Burger, Placenta Spaghetti, and Pizza with Placenta Sauce.  Any recipe which calls for meat will do, like lasagna.  Some people “enjoy” dehydrating it and eating it like beef jerky. After all, almost all mammals placentophagiate (I just made that word up), so why don’t we humans? The term “evolved” comes to mind.

As for me, I can hardly walk into a Chinese restaurants with those fish tanks in the back anymore without thinking, “placenta.”  However, if you have your favorite placentophagy recipes to share with all of us, please put them in the comments below.  We Panda Moms want to know!