The Time 250,000-Year-Old Mammoth Was Served For Dinner


Christian Science Monitor

"The grand ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel won't serve food like that again this year," wrote Herbert B. Nichols in the Christian Science Monitor on January 17, 1951. In fact, it probably hasn't served food like that ever since.

The occasion for the noteworthy fare was the Explorers Club 47th Annual Dinner, and the menu went something like this: Pacific spider crabs, with legs large enough to feed 10 people apiece; green turtle soup; bison steaks; cheese straws (which seem out of place but not unappreciated); and a morsel of 250,000-year-old woolly mammoth meat.

Courtesy of the Explorers Club

The task of hydraulically mining the Yukon Valley for permafrost mammoths to serve up proved too pricey to make the meat the main course—in such an event, each plate would have cost $475.94, which corresponds to $4520.23 in today's money. In fact, a lack of any edible mammoth whatsoever was set to nix the plans until Reverend Bernard Hubbard, also known as the Glacier Priest, "told the committee about his own private stock at a place called Woolly Cove on Akutan Island."

There's no mention of how the ultimate frozen food tasted, but that the mammoth was even edible is incredible. A 2007 Baltimore City Paper article cites a 1961 piece in Science magazine, which reported that of 39 mammoth carcasses found in the world to that point (10 years after the Explorers Club dinner), "just four were reasonably complete"—as I suppose it must have been to feed a gala—and even then the meat was often rotten.

Hopefully, for Mr. Nichols and the rest of the attendees' sakes, this was not the case with Reverend Hubbard's mammoth. But even if it was, it didn't deter the Club from their quest to serve only the most exotic foods at the annual dinner. The 2012 feast included bull "rods and testicles," python patties, martinis garnished with cow eyeballs, and a dessert topped with "pupae sprinkles" (a.k.a. maggots).

As for the remains of the centuries-old mammoth, the tusk can still be seen at the Club headquarters in New York City.

Hannah Keyser