Let Them Eat Dog: A World Tour

by Charles C. W. Cooke

Eating dogs is generally frowned upon in the United States, but this is not true of much of the rest of the world. In fact, on one of his beloved world tours, President Obama could include a number of stops that would enable him to relive his early experiments in the field — as related in Dreams from my Father:

With Lolo, I learned how to eat small green chill peppers raw with dinner (plenty of rice), and, away from the dinner table, I was introduced to dog meat (tough), snake meat (tougher), and roasted grasshopper (crunchy). Like many Indonesians, Lolo followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths. He explained that a man took on the powers of whatever he ate: One day soon, he promised, he would bring home a piece of tiger meat for us to share.

A sample itinerary:

Stop 1: China. It would make more geographic sense for the president to start in neighboring Canada, but he has no time for that; for although Chinese law does not currently prohibit the consumption of canine meat — and nor does society frown on its being served — there is considerable pressure from lawmakers and some vocal animal-rights groups to reverse the 2,500-year-old tradition. Animal-protection groups have long held reservations about the practice and, in 2010, the Chinese government introduced draft legislation that would outlaw consumption. This, however, has not yet come into effect. On his visit, the president might try the famous Yulin, Shaanxi food fair, which is both tasty and prolific: This year, more than 15,000 dogs were eaten in just ten days.

Stop 2: South Korea: The country’s Food and Drug Administration is not picky, and considers anything edible to be food. This has led to a proliferation of dog-based dishes, the most famous of which are Bosintang, a stew containing boiled dog and vegetables, and Gaegogi Muchim, steamed dog with leeks and spiced vegetables. There is even a mixed health drink — Gaesoju — which comprises a mixture of dog meat, ginger, chestnut, and jujube. Such dishes are friendly even to those with limited budgets: On average, dog soups cost only $10, and the main dishes will set one back just $25.

Step 3: And then on to Vietnam: The Vietnamese are not as hooked on the speciality as the South Koreans, but there are special restaurants in the north of the country that cater to such tastes. Having increased his health in South Korea with a tall glass of Gaesoju, the president can stock up on his luck, as the Vietnamese consider dog meat to bring good fortune.

Stop 4: Indonesia: The president’s tour would be incomplete if he didn’t return to the site of his initial tasting. Indeed, if he timed his trip well, he could visit the Minahasa, an ethnic group that lives in the northern part of both Sulawesi and Sumatra, and who cook dog on special occasions such as weddings. Nonetheless, the famously diplomatic Obama might wish to be careful not to offend Muslim sensibilities — dogs are considered unclean by most Muslims and those who choose to eat them are outliers.

Stop 5: Nigeria. To Africa! Dogs are eaten by various groups in Nigeria, including those in the Akwa Ibom, Gombe, Cross River, Plateau, and Taraba who believe them to confer medicinal powers, cure malaria, and inure the eater from witchcraft and being poisoned. Dog meat is increasing in popularity in both Nigeria and nearby Ghana to the extent that there is a shortage of dogs. Many owners are worried that their dogs are ending up in dishes such as the big dog pepper soup pot, a plate of which sells for under a dollar. The BBC reported in 2007 that a bizarre slang had sprung up: Dogs are referred to as “404,” after the quick and popular Peugeot pick-up van; “Headlights” is a dish that contains the eyes of a dog; a “Gear Box” is a dish featuring a dog’s liver, heart, and kidneys; and a “Telephone” is a dog’s tail.

Although the government officially regards the practice as barbaric, if one knows where to go one can get a special dish of dog cooked with local gin, leaves, pepper, and spices and served with palm wine. Look for the numbers “404” or a dog’s head drawn on a board outside these joints.

Stop 6: Canada. American’s northern neighbor imposes no injunctions against the eating of canine meat, providing that the dog is killed in front of federal inspectors. 

Finally, the president will return to the United States. Although eating puppy meat is widely frowned upon by the larger population, the Kickapoo people of Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma do so during traditional festivals.

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