What’s eating you?

By Phil Plait | June 9, 2005 10:36 pm

In 2004, I had the incredible experience of spending two weeks in Australia. I was invited by the Australian Skeptics to be the keynote speaker at their annual meeting, and, not being an idiot, I accepted. After the meeting, I was treated to a chauffered ride around the eastern coast of Oz, where we saw no less than four astronomical observatories, as well as many other wonderful and strange things.

I took lots of pictures of things I found amazing, or beautiful, or odd. I also took some shots of things that were simply really damn funny. I present one of these below. On top is the original picture, and below it is an enhanced version that shows, well, just why I found the image funny.

No one in Australia understood why I didn’t want to eat at that establishment, but everyone in America gets it right away. Mmmmmmm, long pig.


Comments (30)

  1. Umm..

    Perhaps you could explain to we poor ignorant antipodeans what in “donner kebab” makes you think of cannabalism?

    I’m afraid this is one that I don’t get at all :(

  2. jem

    Please explain for us non-US people

  3. Robert Hixon

    The Donner party consisted of a number of families (90 total individuals I believe) who formed a wagon train to cross the Rocky Mountains of the American west. Through a combination of bad planning, bad luck, and bad weather the train became trapped in the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846-47. Due to the cold and lack of food people began to die off and some of those remaining turned to cannibalism to survive.

  4. Roy Batty (UK)

    Ahhh.. I thought just the pun on ‘Donor Kebab’ a bit feeble for the BA’s known wit :-)
    I remember once seeing a documentary about that trek.. grim! but didn’t remember the family name.

  5. jem

    Ahhhhh … then I understand :)

  6. No thanks – I’m vegetarian ūüėČ

  7. Walter Williams

    BA, you missed out regardless of the name! When I lived in Germany, and I assume throughout a lot of Europe, döners are a kind of East European gyro/pita food. Oh they are good! Guaranteed no man-meat!

  8. Bob Hawkins

    Colorado University’s student union has the Alferd E. Packer Grill. They hold an annual Alferd E. Packer Memorial hamburger-eating contest. (At least they did when I lived in Colorado in 1975-77.)

    I believe Alferd remains the only person convicted of cannibalism in US history.

  9. Alex W.

    The Doner kebab is one of the staple foods of inebriated Britons, alongside pizza, fish and chips, and burgets.

    Doner meat and onions on a pizza is absolutely delicious.

  10. Nigel Depledge

    Funny thing is, the doner kebab only tastes really good when you are completely trolleyed. I guess when sober, you spend too much time wondering what a doner actually is, where it lives, and whether or not it was killed humanely… :-)

    I had to do a bit of web research to find out about the Donner party. That’s a piece of American history that I suspect few people outside the US are aware of (well, extrapolating from the fact that I didn’t get the gag and had never before heard of the Donner party, which is perhaps a rather extensive assumption to make…).

    Still, now I know about it, the picture is funny, and I’ll never be able to pass a kebab shop again without cracking a smile.

  11. Thomas Siefert

    Hey even if the donner kebabs here don’t contain human meat (as they should according to the name…), the chicken meat are made from parts of the chicken that even the chicken where happy to get rid of. The lamb and beef are made from minced and pressed meat. Some of that meat are so far removed from meat (as we know it from the supermarket fridge) that i’m not even sure that I could identify on taste…. hmmm… maybe it is human flesh…
    Only the greek Gyros seems to be made with propper meat pieces but you still have to find a place run by greeks to get the ‘Right Stuff’.

  12. interesting – in eastern Canada, they are called “donairs”. (doe – nares)

  13. Almost looks like- donner KeBABB

  14. euan

    Do you really think Coonabarabran is full of cannibals?

  15. Irishman

    No, but it’s funny.

  16. North of Lake Tahoe, just a hair north of the exit off I-80 for the State 89, which leads to Yuba Pass, is an official Donner Camp Picnic Area.


    and scroll down a bit for corroboration.

    If you stop to eat there (and who could resist?) look around for sapsuckers too, and waterfowl and nighthawks over by the lake to the east.

  17. Michelle Rochon

    I actually had to ask someone what it meant… But now that I get it, I love it. ūüėõ

  18. Bob Allee

    Okay, Okay everybody. No more Donner Kebabs for me.

    From now on it’s only “Soylent Kebabs”.

  19. Melanie Reap

    My colleague and I have an extensive sciecne education/social studies unit developed about the Donner Party. We’ve presented it at several science and social studies conferences. Lots of “meaty” topics to be explored via the unfortunate emmigrants.

  20. Donner Party Store
    A. Packer, Prop.
    “Wilderness Outfitting and Trailside Catering”

    Always thought it would be a great idea for a business. Anyone wannna invest?

  21. Donner Kababs are one of those things that seem like a good idea at the time, but afterwards you wish you’d just had Pizza again.

  22. K

    Alternately, people. Googling the name “Donner” is pretty bloody easy. Durrrr.

  23. I’ve been to the Donner Party site several times. It’s called Donner National Momument and is very easy to get to off of Interstate 80, just past Donner Summit at the edge of Donner Lake.

    It’s creepy walking around where everyone’s campsite is identified along with the names of those who survived and those who didn’t. I used to have more sympathy for their plight until I went to the Vistors’ Center and watched the video presentation on what happened. In the following description, a map of the western US would be helpful for those outside the continent.

    The party was a victim of “committee think.” They were all merchants and farmers on their way to California, pre-gold rush (gold was discovered a year later). They couldn’t quite get organized, and were over a month late leaving St. Louis. They were told that they had to be on the trail by April 1, but they wanted to wait until winter broke. They didn’t get to Salt Lake City until October and were advised by the wagon master to winter-over in Utah then continue to California in the spring. They didn’t want to do that, so they fired the wagon master (the only one in the party with wilderness survival skills) and hired a “scout” of less than upright character.

    He told them of a “shortcut” that involved travelling directly across the Great Salt Desert rather than around it. Rather than the two days he said would take, it was nearly two weeks and many of their animals either died or were severely weakened. This hampered their progress through the Sierra, and their “guide” abandoned them. They started making all of their decisions by group vote without a strong leader in an emergency situation, and we all know what happened after that.

    About half of the people died over the winter (the longest and most severe on record up to that time). Several small parties started out on foot to get help, but were driven back or died on the way. One got through to Fort Sacramento (now the capital of California, and about a two hour drive from Donner Summit on I-80) by March and a rescue party got to them a couple weeks later.

    I think of this every time I hear someone say “Don’t listen to the experts, trust your feelings!”

    – Jack

    Jack Hagerty
    ARA Press

  24. Deniz Merak

    D√ɬ∂ner Kebap is another type of kebap (other examples include shish and Iskender kebap), for which the world has to thank Turks. Kebap means “roasted” and D√ɬ∂ner means “to turn” or “spin”. D√ɬ∂ner kebap is filets of meat (usually lamb) roasted on a vertical spinning spit, served with vegetables in flat bread. You can find d√ɬ∂ner kebap all over the world with similar names. The completely different word “gyro” is used by Greeks beacuse, well, they once used to hate everything that had something to do with Turks (see greek history).

    D√ɬ∂ner kebap, as a type of fast food, is the major unorganized competitor of McDonald’s in some european countries, especially in Germany where there is a large turkish minority.

    More info at: http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/TravelDetails/Food/DonerKebap.html

  25. It is supposed to be Donner the reindeer aka karabu, I think. Not the donner party. It is funny, tho’.

  26. CERDIP, actually “donair” is exactly how the rest of Canada sees it too.. That’s probably why I was initially confused at why there was such a thing for sale in the first place in Australia, called a Donner kebab.. A DONAIR.. ohhhhhh.. hehe. Strange planet. We can never agree on spelling anything one particular way now can we?

  27. Briareos

    I think I’ve been there, but then again those takeaway shops all look the same. For any prospective tourists: don’t worry we’d never eat delicious human flesh!

  28. John Bollinger

    Hey Phil! How ’bout coming back to the SDMB or the UnaBoard occasionally? I know this isn’t an astronomy question, but we MISS you! Astronomy ignorance can be fought everywhere!

  29. Maksutov

    Donner Kebabs?

    I think I’ll “pass” on those!

  30. Lithium

    *packs a lunch of Donner Kebabs and heads for the Donner Camp Picnic Area* Anyone care to join me?


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar