It was going to happen eventually, I suppose. Today I was offered dog. Not a dog, you understand. I wasn’t being given a pet. Somebody thought that I might actually enjoy scoffing on flesh that had been pulled off the carcass of a dead dog.
I’ve been given a couple of days off as my fellow lecturers have to go to some conference. With nothing to do, the one lecturer who didn’t go to this thing offered to take me to lunch, and he suggested dog meat. I was previously aware of a penchant for dog meat in Korea, but I figured nobody would expect me to eat it. So this was a surprise. Thinking it best to immediately rule out the possibility, I calmly said, “I don’t think I’d like that, to be honest.” Unfortunately, I failed to appreciate this was beyond my companion’s level of English, and it seems he interpreted this as enthusiasm for the idea. Five minutes later we were parked beside a dog meat restaurant.
I honestly can’t say why I knew it was a dog meat restaurant – it wasn’t as if there were cartoon dogs on the sign – but somehow I knew it was not a place I wanted to be. And in that moment I thought it might be better just to do it. Was it worth the risk of offending a colleague by saying I didn’t want to eat here? Yesterday, this same guy congratulated me for assimilating into the Korean culture so well. It seems most Westerners have huge problems with food here, so the locals find it impressive that I horse it down without qualm. It’s not that impressive really, I genuinely love Korean food, but I have always prided myself on being able to assimilate well with foreign cultures. For instance, if I were teaching in Japan and someone offered me whale meat, I’d eat it. I wouldn’t feel good about it, but I’d suck it up and do it. And so, I rationalised that eating dog is pretty much the same deal.
Of course I didn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get the image of our Frank back home out of my head, looking up at me with his big sad face. I spluttered out, “Oh, dog meat. Sorry, I’ve had that before and I didn’t like it,” and so he took me to a Chinese place where I had battered pork and seafood noodles instead. I was embarrassed at my squeamishness. I mean, I’ve always had a problem with our national mores over meat, and how we find the foods of foreign cultures repulsive. If we have little problem with chewing on the flesh of cow or pig, then is eating dog or horse or whathaveyou really any different? The way I see it, the only people who can be legitimately repulsed by such customs are vegetarians (this should not be read as an endorsement of vegetarianism, as I downright dislike vegetarians). And so, I will try just about anything that’s offered to me.
Still, there are two animals I just can’t bring myself to eat: dogs and donkeys. Donkeys because they have it hard enough as it is, and dogs because, well, just because they’re dogs. What other creature in the animal kingdom strives to align with humankind the way dogs do? And we’re going to repay that by eating them? Fuck that shit.