ADD SALT. PULSE. TASTE
My placenta looks like a bloody figgy pudding. It’s thawing in the sink. Shall I roast it or braise it or cook it in a pan? Nothing about the mucous shiny mass makes me want to eat it with potatoes. Placenta. It wants a recipe that respects the rarity of it.
I cut through the membrane with a paring knife. Scoop some out with a spoon. It looks like a blood clot. There’s that mineral tang, but it’s also smooth and rich, like bone marrow. I take a little more. The cold fat melts in my mouth. Does this sac of nutrients belong to me or to my baby? Am I a cannibal? I feel like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, a little frantic, a little brave, eating raw meat in the afternoon light.
All the hormones that made me happy, even as I dribbled vomit into my traveller mug of coffee, even as my fetus sat on my small intestine and made my farts bray, they’re all in the placenta. I looked at my vagina today. It looked wounded, black and purple and frayed, like an old dog’s gums. I cried stupid tears -- cunt clenching tears for my stupid sad body.
I tell myself my labia will be mauve again someday. I need these happiness hormones. I’d considered an Ayurvedic preparation, poaching the placenta with mugwort and ginseng. Making it medicinal. But it’s nice just like this. I’ll serve it cold. Make paté, a terrine and a torchon.
I saw through the umbilical cord that looks like the stem of an impossible fruit, the bright beige of durian but smelling like meat, as stiff as gristle. I sever all the filaments that attach the mass to the membrane. I hold up the empty sac, as transparent and as dense as the flesh of a grape, as floppy as pizza dough. I can’t throw it away. It’s a souvenir, it goes in the freezer, the bag has a label, so I write, Miranda’s birth sac, and as soon as I’ve written it, I feel that all the words ought to be capitalized, that it’s a title rather than a description. Nobel Laureate. Not Nobel laureate. Or, Zen Mantra. Not Zen mantra. I want to style this as the worthiest of things. Get a new freezer safe bag, Miranda’s Birth Sac.
Deveining two pounds of placenta is a hassle. I put on Stevie Nicks and sing along while I lift the tiny purple veins with the tip of my knife, you see your gypsy, you see your gypsy, the thick vibrato so prescient. When I eat the things he won’t, my husband calls me a witch. The first time, I’d picked the chartreuse liver from his lobster carcass. The next time, we were sharing a basket of fried smelt, and after I sucked the meat off of their little bodies, he watched me chew their thin skeletons. When he called me a witch, it thrilled me that he was watching me that way, that I was still capable of mystery. I flick the veins off my knife, they’re piling up on the edge of the cutting board. I’ve got my meat. Now I need a recipe.
Julia Child makes her chicken liver paté with Madeira, but my placenta has a stronger flavour. Porto would do. She uses all spice for seasoning, but to marry the meatiness, I’ll want a bolder spice profile. What about quatre épices? Ginger, cloves, nutmeg, white peppercorn, the crust for my Christmas duck confit. Yes.
I check on Miranda, my breasts are tender but she hasn’t stirred. I can see her fuzzy skull, her round bum in it’s shiny diaper, her hands are blissful little fists. She cries and cries until we put her on her belly. We don’t believe in SIDS. What she tells me with her gorgeous sleep is that she loves the feel of her brow and her belly pressed against the cool cotton. I slide my finger between her nose and her mouth, and yes, she is breathing. It’s still so scary. Her breath feels as fast as a hamster’s, as any little animal with its little heartbeat. I race down the stairs and into the kitchen like I’m getting away with something.
I chop some rosemary. Julia uses thyme with chicken livers, but a more robust herb is in order here. I heat the butter, chop two shallots, theirsweetness will go with the Porto. When the butter starts to pale I throw in the shallots, and when they become translucent I throw in the placenta. Swoon at the smell. I hadn’t realized I was hungry. Browning is only the first step. I’ve come to the end of the Best of Stevie Nicks. I put on Carly Simon. There is something that feels very seventies about eating the best parts of yourself. Sing, I had some dreams… they were clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee… Watch the steam rise, the rosemary makes the meaty aroma slightly resinous. I hope it tastes delicate. The placenta is shrivelling, I push it around the pan with a wooden spoon, it’s not gelatinous anymore, but it’s still pretty tender, beige, brown, still a little pink. Preserve the pinkness. Tip the pan into the food processor. Pour the Porto in the pan still sticky with bits of meat. Taste the headiness of wine simmering. Watch it reduce. Tip it into the processor’s receptacle. Add cream. Add spices. Add salt. Pulse. Taste. It’s delicious. Add butter. Pulse.
Madeleine Maillet is a writer and translator living in Montréal. Her work has appeared in No Tokens, Joyland, Matrix, Hobarts and has been anthologized in The Journey Prize Stories. She is also the fiction editor of Cosmonauts Avenue.