Ouroboros (Egyptian Mythology) – Fenzel
What if I told you that you could carry your favorite food with you everywhere?
What if you could eat as much of it as you wanted?
What if it made you immortal?
What if eating faster made you lose weight?
What if eating slower gave you a longer snake? (I mean, who doesn’t want that, right?)
The best fictional food has got to be ouroboros, one of several ancient Egyptian symbols for eternal life — and easily the tastiest.
Passed down to OTI mostly through the Egyptian influence on the Greeks and Romans (but passed down to Mark through similar symbols appearing on the tombs of the emperors of ancient pre-Chinese dynasties), the ouroboros is affordable, compelling, classy without being overly baroque, hard-core without being really gross, and present in almost all world imaginary cuisines, while not feeling like a poseur.
The Norse have Jörmungandr (pasted directly to preserve the righteous umlaut), the Indians have Adisesha, the Africans have Aidophedo, Oshunmare and others. “Circular snake symbolizing eternity” is clearly the world’s only universal fictional food. Except maybe the McNugget.
See, this is how it works: the snake eats its tail, because its tail is delicious. This nourishes the snake, which causes it to grow its tail longer, which supplies it with more food. And thus the snake lives forever. It’s a traditional alchemical symbol for the purification or wholeness. And it also appears in In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O’Brien which is neither thousands of years old nor a mystical tome of import, but is a really good book. And also that show Millenium I never watched. And of course, Fullmetal Alchemist.
It’s one of those symbols that people love spotting in pop culture media from the last five or ten years, cataloging each appearance, and forgetting of course that it’s been making cameos in pop culture for more than 5,000 years. That’s like Millenium times five.
But the ouroboros doesn’t look its age. Because, you know, it eats right.
Missionaries (Jokes About Tribal Cultures) – Perich
In one sense, missionaries are not at all a fictional food. Some Christian missionaries were eaten by the tribal cultures they tried to convert. In fact, in 2007 a cannibal tribe in Papua New Guinea apologized for eating some Methodist preachers over a century ago. So how can I claim that missionaries are a fictional food?
Because our primary understanding of missionaries as food comes through fiction – in the form of jokes.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
Two missionaries in Africa were apprehended by a tribe of very hostile cannibals who put them in a large pot of water, build a huge fire under it, and left them there. A few minutes later, one of the missionaries started to laugh uncontrollably.
The other missionary was incredulous, and said, “What’s wrong with you? We’re being boiled alive! They’re going to eat us! What could possibly be funny at a time like this?”
The laughing missionary said, “I just peed in their soup!”
These two cannibals kill a missionary. They argue for a while about how to divide him up, when finally, one of them says, “Okay. You start at the head and I’ll start at the feet.”
So they begin their tasty feast. After a while one of them says, “Hey, this is really great. I’m having a ball.”
“Slow down!” cries the other cannibal. “You’re eating too fast!”
Cannibal: Mom, mom, I’ve been eating a missionary and I feel sick!
Mom: Well, you know what they say – you can’t keep a good man down!
I could do this for hours without repeating.
The corpus of cannibals-eating-missionaries jokes vastly outweighs the documented instances of real cannibals eating real missionaries. It’s now a punch line for us. When someone talks about cannibals eating missionaries, we don’t think of the horror of a human getting boiled alive before they’re consumed like livestock, or the oppression of a well-armed culture imposing its religion on another. We think of zany comedy! Oh, those missionaries, getting eaten by those cannibals – all one big misunderstanding!
By turning a grisly and sporadic culture clash into an enduring body of jokes, cannibals and missionaries have transcended the limits of the real. They’ve become fictional constructs themselves: mythical archetypes, greater than the sum of their parts.