"The man that ate his own leg". It's not the name I would have chosen, but over the last few weeks, that's been the biggest story about me. "What Does Human Flesh Taste Like?", a clip from my BBC science series The Secrets of Everything recently went on YouTube and racked up over 1million views in a week. It featured on blogs on Buzzfeed and Gizmodo, IFLS and the Huffington Post itself. It's likely you saw it in your feed. But the full story wasn't quite as simple as it sounds.
It all started because of my insatiable curiosity. We are all curious - how often have you sat down in the pub with your mates debating whether we can keep our eyes open when we sneeze, or Googling if carrots do really help you see in the dark. Me and my mates do it all the time. The thing is, I don't let it stop there. I'm a scientist by training so I want to work out the answer to these FAQs, but I also love a challenge so uncovering the answer tends to lead me to doing some pretty stupid stuff to satisfy my curiosity.
There was the time I was buried alive - probably one of the most uncomfortable things I've done. I was locked in a coffin, we monitored my oxygen levels and... although you might think the problem would be running out of oxygen, it's actually the build up of the carbon dioxide you're breathing out that starts poisoning you...
And then there was the time I was shot in the arse, in an attempt to prove that a penny dropped from the top of the Empire Sate building wouldn't actually kill you - though the pain in your ass might make you wish it had.
I've also dedicated a big portion of my YouTube career answering viewer's questions, like "Why does your voice sound different on a recording?" & "What Does LSD Do To Your Brain?" And I'm hoping to answer even more of these head-scratchers on my first nationwide tour across the UK in May. I'll be tackling curious questions live - with often explosive experiments. Check out the dates and grab tickets at www.gregfoot.com/tour
Anyway, back to me trying to discover what human flesh tastes like... I found myself lying nervously in Kings College, London, while a professor of human and applied physiology wielded a 'mini apple corer' ready to take a biopsy of about 100mg of muscle from my thigh. Even with a local anesthetic a biopsy is still an invasive medical procedure - I certainly felt it, and I have a small scar to show for it.
I was up for trying cooking that little bit of me - but it turns out, quite rightly, that it's illegal to eat human flesh. Even your own. I still wanted to get as close as I could to the answer though, so get an idea of the taste I needed to 'cook' it - it's in the cooking and browning that we get almost all of the flavors we associate with meat (that's the Maillard Reaction).
So I took my leg mince off to Nottingham, where flavour scientist Dr Avinash Kant had a high tech way to help me get round the law against eating human. He cooked my muscle fragments in one of the machines that he uses to analyse aroma. The smell would give us a strong idea about how I tasted - about 80% of the flavour of a food comes from aroma. I can confirm that I smelled surprising both richer, and more tasty, than I'd expected.
I mapped the flavour profile against that of other cooked meats and the results showed that I tasted like a combination of mainly lamb and pork. There was just one thing left to do - whip up a Greg Burger matching those proportions.
Turns out I taste delicious - but I couldn't finish the whole thing. It's funny, because even though I knew, logically, that this was just a burger, emotionally it felt strange to eat it. I couldn't stop thinking about what it was meant to represent.
There are not many people who can say they know what their own flesh tastes like - and my curiosity for the world around me keeps growing.
I still want to answer the weird and wonderful questions that pop into people's heads every day - so that's what I'll be doing on my tour. I'll be bringing 'Caution: Safety Goggles Required!' to 18 venues around the UK - do come along if any are near you. And if you want to be a part of the show, throw your curious questions into my Search For The Nation's Most Curious Question on Twitter using #AskGreg. We've had some great ones in!
Greg Foot is on tour around the UK with his latest show CAUTION SAFETY GOGGLES REQUIRED from 1 May, check here for dates and venues: http://gregfoot.com/tour
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