I can’t remember my first experience of getting teased about eating dog. This one baffled me because I’d never eaten dog in my life. The idea was repugnant to me for the same reasons as eating horse, cats and parakeets. I thought of these animals as pets not meant for human consumption. No one bothered to tell me why people thought I ate dogs.
Ironically, it was my best friend’s dad, the one who use to call me “rice paddy”, who told me what this dog eating business was all about. He was a nice guy, really. I use to spend the night over at their house and he was always welcoming and friendly. It was one of those nights that he told me about how Vietnamese eat dogs, monkeys, snakes, rats and all kinds of “weird things”. Of course, I totally grossed out. He grinned and asked, “Now, aren’t you glad you grew up over here?”
Life moves on and I get on with growing up but with a slightly different perspective in regards to “my people”. They are barbaric, uncivilized and backwards. Imagine people eating things like that. Could you possibly be any more disgusting? It must be because they’re poor and have nothing else to eat. Yeah, I’m glad I grew up “here”. Why wouldn’t I be? Who would want to grow up eating that nasty shit?
Flash forward almost a decade later. I’ve converted to Islam and widened my view of the world. My husband and I went to visit a friend and have dinner at their place. After dinner, the subject somehow turns to eating dog. “Come on, Sume admit it,” my friend smiles, “you’ve eaten dog, right?” Now, I don’t know if it’s just me but why are people always smiling like that when they ask me this? Friend or not, I wanted to slap that grin off her face.
“Why would I eat dog?” I asked getting a little miffed, “I grew up here.”
“You’re Vietnamese,” she said, “it’s okay.”
Okay, wtf does that mean? I’m genetically predisposed to eat dog? For those of you who may not know, some Muslims have this stigma thing going on when it comes to “man’s best friend”. They are unclean, disgusting animals where even their saliva and hair are untouchable. Not all have this attitude, but some of the people I hung out with were so disgusted by dogs, they would freak out if one rubbed up against them. To be accused of eating dog was like a serious insult.
Flash forward a few months later. I woke up early to this strange, musky smell coming from the kitchen. I could hear my husband taking a shower. Did he forget something on the stove? *sigh It was Saturday and my day to sleep in late. Irritated, I got up to check and sure enough something was boiling on the stove. As I got closer, the smell became just plain nasty. It smelled like a mixture of old tennis shoes and day-old roadkill.
The first thing I did was open the patio door. I grabbed a kitchen towel, turned off the burner and then lifted the lid. What greets me is an eyeball staring back at me that’s still attached to a head with jaw agape and a long tongue hanging out. “Jesus Christ!” I yelled as I dropped the lid, “That’s a head!” The sucker was bobbing up and down and rolling over in the pot, pausing momentarily in between to gawk at me as if I’d put it there. Later, I had the pleasure of watching my husband devour the thing’s brains, tongue and all except for those accusing eyes. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
Flash forward some five years later. I went to my visit my dad, my step-mother and their new daughter. I can’t remember the occasion but there was to be a huge family barbecue and get together. My great-aunt came down from Louisiana, my cousins were all coming, too. So we’re all sitting around talking while the food was cooking on the homemade pit-grill my uncle had constructed. My dad’s sister brought in this tray of something and started passing it around. When she got to me, I asked her what it was. “Girl, that’s hoghead cheese. You forgot?”
Honestly, I don’t ever remember having anything called “hoghead cheese”. “Please tell me the name is not literal,” I told her. “Ask your great-aunt,” she laughed. I did and my great-aunt went on to tell me of how she came upon my uncle cooking a pig head outside like some witches brew. It was a familiar story, head bobbing up and down, eyeballs looking angry, the puke-inducing smell. I politely passed on the “head” cheese. Yup, so glad I grew up among civilized people. Yes, sir.
My point by now should be obvious. This dog-eating stigma thing really makes no sense to me. I’ve read the arguments. Still for every point, I find another to negate it. Cruelty to animals? Have you seen the conditions our “food animals” live in? Ever see where veal comes from or how the hens that lay our eggs are treated? Some of the same people who scream cruelty to animals don’t think about the life that cow had before it became the burger on their plates. I’m guilty of this, too but if you’re going to scream about “cruelty to animals”, at least be consistent. Vegans are exempt from this one, btw.
Because they’re pets? I had a billy goat I named “Benji” and kept for a pet. I loved that goat. It was cute and friendly and didn’t bother anyone. He suddenly disappeared and no one seemed to know how. Years later, I found out that he’d ended up on the grill for one of my dad’s parties. My dad had not only eaten my pet but fed it to the neighbors to boot. Some people keep potbellied pigs as pets. I wonder if they get grossed out at the thought of pork chops or bacon. Man, they’re eating Wilbur.
I’m not saying that I ever would eat it. The thought makes me gag because eating dog is just not my thing. I’m not a big meat-eater anyway. What got me to thinking about all of this was a post I found on Thirstythong written by a guy who eats dog and doesn’t care what people think. Really, why should he? Admittedly, my stomach lurched and I cringed but I have to ask myself is it really that big a deal? More than likely, I’ll always get a little grossed out at the thought of eating dog just like I do with the thought of eating snail, eel, octopus, ostrich, camel, raw meat of any kind and a long list of other things that people eat.
It seems stupid to hate on people who do though. What’s acceptable to one culture, may be completely disgusting to another. Eating pork for most Muslims and Jews is unthinkable. The same goes for beef for some Hindus. The list goes on and on. Why is it that the dog has created such a reaction? Really, I’m curious because aspects of the debate seem to contain elements of self-righteous ethnocentrism.
This post has gone on way too long so I’ll end with this: Though I’ll probably never change my mind about chowing down on Fido, when people tease me about it I no longer get all mad and embarrassed. Why should I be? Now when people joke with me about eating dogs, I simply tell them how delicious it is and offer them recipes. The look on their face is priceless. So there.