I can remember being able to eat a lot while I was growing up. My mother would often complain about my “bottomless pit” of a stomach, as well as the skyrocketing price of food in the 90’s. As a parent myself, I am often confused as to how kids just want to sit around and eat pretty much anything that stumbles into their field of view. But what if this were a serious problem and not just a man venting about his kids? What if this were a Tarrare-like situation?
Born in Lyon, France around 1772, the man known only as Tarrare was a very peculiar study from a very early age. Tarrare, from the outside looking in, was very much an average boy of the 1700’s. He wasn’t violent, or ill-tempered (seemingly), but there was this one thing about him that separated Tarrare from the pack, he could just eat vast amounts of food and felt he needed to to get by. By the time he was a teenager, Tarrare could reportedly eat his body weight in beef, equaling about a quarter of your average cow. He would stuff his cheeks with up to twelve eggs at a time, raid the garbage for more food, and eventually be kicked out of his parents home because the grocery bills were too damn high.
For a couple of years after leaving his parents home, he turned to performing in the street with his many gastro-influenced feats of strength. Large crowds would form and laugh and pay him money to eat whatever they could literally throw at him. Tarrare was ravenous and ate everything from whole bushels of apples, rocks, wine corks and live fucking animals, with a particular fondness for snake meat. This behavior eventually put Tarrare in the hospital, because of course it did. News of the average looking man that could eat anything eventually caught the attention of the French military…no, seriously, the Army wanted a weapon, and a dude who ate cats alive was it.
Around 1792, the War of the First Coalition broke out and Tarrare was more than likely drafted against his will into the French Revolutionary Army, thanks to some high speed officer who had noticed that despite the vast amounts of food and household object Big T could eat, he kept his average weight and shape when he wasn’t eating. I guess people would look past his horrible odor, explosive diarrhea and stints of live animal eating (France must be weirder than Japan). So the plan was to make Tarrare eat a wooden box with secret information in it, he would crossover to enemy lines, take a dump and deliver the secret information to his superiors. It worked once before he was caught and imprisoned.
After realizing that his information was worthless, Tarrare’s captors beat him severely and let him go after about thirty hours of captivity. At this point, seeing where his crazy hunger got him, Tarrare was desperate for a cure to his appetite.He admitted himself to a hospital where he met a chief surgeon named Percy who took great pity upon him (as well as a fascination for finding out the limits to Tarrare’s hunger). Percy let Tarrare eat meals prepared for up to fifteen men. He turned the other cheek as Tarrare would drink the blood of patients their for bloodletting. This weird surgeon didn’t even mind when Tarrare was found in a morgue eating a cadaver, but when a fourteen month old child went missing in the hospital, Tarrare had to go.
In 1798, in a hospital in Versailles, Tarrare was near death and reached out to Percy the surgeon again, probably because he was the closest thing he ever had to a friend. Tarrare was on death’s door due to a fork he had eaten getting lodged somewhere it was supposed to be. Tarrare, bed-ridden and suffering from Tuberculosis, died not long after the doctor’s visit. His autopsy would reveal a stomach covered in ulcers and his liver and gallbladder were oozing puss. It was even said that when his mouth was open, doctors could see straight into his digestive track. Tarrare died knowing nothing but incredible hunger and immense pain as he tortured himself daily with ridiculous amounts of food passing through his system. It’s never been known why he ate so much, why he felt such hunger or why history has been fascinated by this guy, but I think the real moral of this historic chestnut of a story is don’t eat a fucking baby(!).
Source: Wikipedia…and the internet being a weird place that remembers everything.