retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Sometimes, it takes a story like this one to put all the debate about GMOs, horsemeat in beef dishes, pork in moose dishes, and the national obsession with nutrition and health into some sort of historical context.

Meaning this: Things could be worse. A lot worse.

Reuters reports that the Smithsonian Institution is saying that an excavation at the Jamestown Colony in Virginia - the oldest permanent British settlement in what then was called the "new world" - has proven beyond any doubt that some of the settlers resorted to cannibalism in order to survive the harsh winter of 1609.

According to the story, the colonists apparently ate a 14-year-old girl who, based on their forensic studies, "probably was part of a relatively prosperous household, possibly a gentleman's daughter or maidservant, said Smithsonian forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley, who analyzed her bones after they were found by Preservation Virginia, a private nonprofit group.

"Her back molars had not yet erupted, putting her age around 14 years, and there was a lot of nitrogen in her bones, indicating she ate a meat-rich English diet ... After her death, in a year when many Jamestown colonists starved, Jane's body was hacked apart by a butcher or butchers who barely knew what they were doing. She may have been chosen because others in her household were already dead and there was no one to bury her, Owsley said."

However, the story also says that "it is not known whether Jane was killed or died of natural causes. The Smithsonian said there is no evidence of murder."

Which, at least from where I sit, doesn't really make things better.

As grossed out as I am, I have to admit that I find myself wondering what they served with the meal.

Fava beans and nice chianti, perhaps?
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