Monday, December 14, 2009

Eating Dog.

Cleveland That's Nasty Korean Dog
I know what you're thinking. Don't worry, it's not one of those posts. I'll keep it civil. First, I'd like to point out a brief summary via everyone's favorite online resource. Essentially, if/when you come to Korea, don't expect to see dogs dangling from store fronts and dog being served at every meal because it's just not that common of a dish. Understandably, some misinterpret the consumption of dog as an insult to their way of life. Like all things, some take the practice to a new level of ridiculous. Like this commentator points out, different isn't always wrong.

The history of dog as a food source goes way back to the dog days of summer, known as 삼복 or 복날. These three days had a prescription to beat the heat - fight fire with fire, so to say. Fight the heat with a hot dish. Makes perfect sense.  See, I'm much more inclined to eat 콩국수, but that's just me.

If it's eaten nowadays, it's usually in the form of 보신탕 which is said to be a great overall virility booster. But then again, 복분자 is supposed to do the same, but I end up just getting sleepy.

But get real. Not all Koreans are into eating Fido. In fact, great efforts are being made to change the "energy-boosting" trend. In my personal opinion, it's getting more and more difficult to attest to Korea's cultural homogeneity. Genetic homogeneity is still pretty much as exclusive as the Finer Things Club. Still exclusive but slowly changing, no less.

It really gives new meaning to the 'dog days of summer' doesn't it? (oh come on, how couldn't I make that reference in this post?) Although the tradition of eating hot food on 복날 is still practiced, a great alternative is the delicious 삼계탕. A chicken is still socially acceptable to eat, right?

What it all comes down to is just a cultural difference. Case in point: In America, it gives no one pause to eat cow. But, it's not nearly as common to do so in India. Likewise, to eat a dog in America is considered uncivilized and culturally taboo. In Korea, it kind of is, too, but not as severe a taboo. But look around. Historically and geographically, have you seen mass pastures for cow grazing in Korea? Then why would it be just as common to eat cow in Korea as America? The amount of dog meat actually consumed in Korea is not well-documented but it has been estimated as low as 5% and as high as 30% of the population who have eaten the dish. So, Lassie is still man's best friend. Even in Korea.
Cute Dog Korea
Personally? I'm not against the consumption of any animal. Keep in mind I'm a former vegan. It's all a matter of perspective. It's easy to judge some other country's diet and say "that's disgusting" and for them to go ahead and say the same about yours. But that doesn't get anyone anywhere. While I am not up to trying ultra-exotic foods like this guy, I'm culturally sensitive enough to know that what I consider abso-frakin-lutely delicious is at the bottom of someone else's food ladder. Not everyone thinks 된장찌개 is heaven-sent. But, I try to look at "strange" food as I do with beer. Some beers seem better suited to clean the heads of gold clubs overnight instead of being consumed, but I respect someone else's choice. Just because my buddy is drinking a Beck's Dark doesn't make him a bad person. In the end, it's all the same. Beer is beer and food is food.

UPDATE: AAK wrote a nice, lengthy writeup recently, too. Funny how we both used the same basic title though my article was written back in June. Here's a self-imposed compliment - great minds think alike, right?