(Eating the Girl in the Wreck)"Hell, I could really do with a bite to eat! I wonder if that thought ever occurs to those, you know ... what did you say they were called? The ones who live near the Ganges?"
"The Shaivas. I used to know a guy called Kukacka, a real cuckoo, from Letnany, who wanted to taste human meat for so long that he actually ended up doing so."
"You don't say. Is he a doctor?"
"No he's not, but a friend of his was. And one time they were stupidly egging each other on to cook human flesh. So the doctor brought a piece of a girl who had been run over by a car and they chopped it up back at Kukacka's place. Then they stood there looking at it, apparently it was beautifully red, clean, lovely meat, but they suddenly lost the nerve to just roast it as it was. Kukacka remembered a recipe his mother used for beef stew. They chopped up onion, garlic, carrot, made a vinegar marinade, added some bay leaves, thyme, allspice, salt and pepper, chopped the meat up into cubes and left it to marinade for two days ..."
"How do you know all this so exactly? You weren't there as well, for Christ's sake, were you?"
"No I wasn't ... They left it to marinade and then drank for two days so they'd have the courage to go through with it, because they were less and less keen with every passing minute. So in the end they got the meat out, fried it in oil, and then they gradually added the rest of the marinade, stewing it until they had a sort of ragout, a sort of human goulash. They put it on the table and sat down, passed the plates out, hesitating for a moment, but apparently it gave off a wonderful smell, so they knocked back one more shot and ate it."
"Did they like it?"
"They loved it, it seems. But then they sobered up and it started to get to them. From that day on they couldn't stand each other. Every time they met their aversion to one another grew. So they swore never to tell anyone and didn't see each other for a year. But during that year Kukacka lost his marbles, left his job at the research institute, broke up with his girlfriend, became a recluse, and in the end got a job as a tram driver. I ran into him a few years after this took place. I was on the No. 22 and suddenly I see that it's being driven by a noticeably skinnier Kukacka, so I did the route with him four times and we talked. And up at Pohorelec, at the last stop, he let the cat out of the bag. He said he couldn't get it out of his mind. That he never goes out anywhere. That he only eats porridge. That he can't walk past a butcher's without feeling sick. That I'm the first person in all those years he's confided in."
"I understand where he's coming from," Father said, "I used to get pangs of conscience just from eating the lab rabbits at the institute, it's just prejudice what we consider okay to eat and what we don't ... But how come you remember that recipe so precisely?"
"Because up there in Pohorelec Kukacka got in a weird rut and kept describing it to me over and over. First they removed the onion from the marinade, put it in the oil in the pan and when it had sweated down, they added the meat. They put the marinade in a pan next to it to cook and only once it had reduced down to about half the volume they started to add the marinade to the meat. At the end they were supposed to add cream but it seemed silly to have a girl with cream sauce, so they didn't put it in ... I was pretty frightened of him at the time because it was clear that he really did have a few screws loose. So that's one reason ..."
"Alright, and the other?"
"Well, the recipe got so stuck in my mind I couldn't help trying it with braising steak, and it really is delicious."
"That's another lovely story, that is," Father shook his head, "and what's up with this Cockatoo of yours now?"
"Kukacka? I've no idea, I guess he's living somewhere. He was always more of a quiet type and the episode with the girl in the goulash was the most significant event of his life."