An offal story

Prometheus by Theodoor Rombouts (1597-1637), in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

The first thing Prometheus did after he stole fire from the gods was to cook meat for everyone on Earth. He then tricked Zeus who had demanded his fair share of all meats consumed by offering him only offal. Retaliation was swift: Prometheus was bound to a rock and an eagle (Zeus’ sacred bird and emblem) was sent to peck at Prometheus’ liver, day in day out. An eye for an eye, minced liver for unholy haggis.

It takes guts to defy the king of Olympus.

The whole Promethean myth seems taken out of a butcher’s dream. In a way it is, as meat, food, livelihood, survival have always been humanity’s ultimate concern. In the beginning, everyone is a butcher. Broccoli and tofu come late to the table. 

And the oldest myths represent mankind’s oldest and most immutable interests.

A less selfish and self-serving humanity would’ve had a different fate, perhaps, if Prometheus had offered Zeus a fillet, a sirloin or even a brisket. But no, he had to add insult to injury. An avaricious deceiver on top of a sacrilegious thief. All the Michelin stars on the firmament won’t save you.

In case you’re asking, steak tartare had never been popular on mount Olympus.

The punishment having been completed, even Zeus had to abide by the cosmic axiom of foundationalism: what happened in the beginning, in illo tempore, must happen again, always, in saecula saeculorum. So the gods will always ask for and hope to receive in worship the entrails of a sacrificial animal. While the good cuts must go to the worshippers. After all, fairness requires that the disparity between gods and mortals be offset by something fleshy. If we can’t be immortal, at least we can have a premium steak from time to time – with fear and trembling.

Achilles may disagree with his Greek companions, but he always invites them in for a full rack of ribs. In the temple, on the other hand, Apollo and the rest of the gang feast on bowels. Perhaps that’s why ancient sacrificial religion died out, of cholesterol or anaemia: there’s too much fat and too little protein in the viscera.

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