On the perils of eating husky liver

February 17, 2009

siberian-huskyI’m slowly making my way through The Aztec Treasure House by Evan S. Connell. The book, published in 2001, is a compilation of historical essays; not topics we obsess on so much, but tales of endearing and dark, enduring folly.

Here we read of journeys in search of the mythical Prester John, of the Innocents Crusade, when children marched toward death or enslavement to rid Jerusalem of the Moslems, of Arctic explorations gone awry, of Spanish and Incans who died for gold, of a king’s hubris and the ship that sank in his service.

Here’s the passage on husky livers:

Mertz and Mawson looked forward to eating the livers of the dogs, not because they were good —in fact they were slimy and stank of fish—but because it seemed to them that the liver must be nourishing. This part of the animal was saturated with a substance  which would be isolated eight years later by  laboratory technicians and named vitamin A. Twenty years after that discovery the effects of an overdose would be catalogued: nausea, vertigo, loss of hair, cramps, skin fissures, extreme fatigue, dysentery, delirium, and convulsions, often ending in death. … Four ounces of a husky’s liver is enough to be considered poisonous. Mawson and Mertz, who ate six livers, swallowed about thirty toxic doses apiece on the assumption it was good for them.

Connell’s wry humor and off-hand insights infuse these pieces with the mark of a keen and irreverent mind. For more on Connell, this Salon piece explores his sanguinary obsessions.


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