Hufu was a tofu-based product designed to taste like human flesh, providing an alternative meat source for health-conscious cannibals.
Hufu artwork created by Ray Drainville of Ardes
Hufu founder Mark Nuckols was reading the book Good To Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture by anthropologist Marvin Harris, while eating a tofurkey sandwich, when the idea came to him: a healthy, vegan alternative to human meat.
Nuckols launched Hufu in 2005, and the initial stock of 144 boxes of Hufu Classic Strips sold out in just two days.
If I had known about it back then, every one of those boxes would have shipped to me. But Hufu, surprisingly, had a bigger market than one random weirdo with a website and an unhealthy interest in cannibalism.
“Hufu was originally conceived of as a product for students of anthropology hungry for the experience of cannibalism but deterred by the legal and logistical obstacles,” the now defunct Eat Hufu website stated. “However, our preliminary market research revealed the existence of a larger segment of the public that was interested in the availability of a legal and healthy human flesh substitute, as well as vegetarians and vegans. We also found that Hufu is a great product for cannibals who want to quit. Hufu is also a great cannibal convenience food — no more Friday night hunting raids! Stay at home and enjoy the flavorful, convenient human flesh alternative.”
“Cannibalism might seem wrong to your hetero-normative, Judeo-Christian culture, but who are we to judge the Aztecs or the indigenous cultures of Papua New Guinea?”
– Eat Hufu website FAQ, 2005
In an interview on The Daily Show, Nuckols said, “I think that a lot of the pleasure of eating the Hufu product is imagining you’re eating human flesh. For that moment, you can join the fraternity of cannibals… If you really want to come as close as possible to the experience of cannibalism, Hufu is your best option.”
But how did Nuckols, or anyone eating Hufu, for that matter, know what human flesh tastes like?
Polynesian cannibals called human the “long pig,” so we tend to associate people with pork. After studying historical descriptions from cannibal tribes, and a lot of experimenting in the kitchen, Hufu discovered otherwise.
“Hufu is designed to resemble, as humanly possible, the taste and texture of human flesh,” the website stated. “If you’ve never had human flesh before, think of the taste and texture of beef, except a little sweeter in taste and a little softer in texture. Contrary to popular belief, people do not taste like pork or chicken.”
The FAQ adds, “We are supremely confident that our food products would satisfy the tastes of even the most demanding cannibal.”
“I bet you a real Fijian headhunter would enjoy Hufu,” Nuckols told The Stanford Daily.
The name Hufu is a portmanteau of human and tofu. The name was apparently coined by Resident Evil actress Milla Jovovitch when she overheard some of Nuckols’ business associates discussing it on a train from London to Paris, according to the website. They were calling it “Hufu” at the time.
“‘Hofu’ sounds like [the male organ],” Milla chimed in. “You should call it ‘hufu.'”
The website offered articles on famous cannibals and cultural traditions, merchandise and recipes: Hufu Stroganoff, Lechter’s Liver with Fava Beans, and Aztec Human Stew for anyone who wants to “vicariously participate in one of the great Aztec customs, the human sacrifice festival.”
Sadly, Hufu closed up shop in 2006.
“The world has moved on past Hufu,” Nuckols said.
Well I didn’t, Mark. There’s a Hufu-sized hole in my soul that can never be filled. If you ever read this and you still have some Classic Strips, or even just a t-shirt (not to eat), taking up space in a closet somewhere, hit me up. My cannibal fork is on standby.