Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Eating My Best Friend

It will come to no surprise to my readers, or anyone that knows me well, that there is very little that I won't eat. If you're new here[welcome, I'm not sure how you got here but good for you and I hope you leave entertained] then allow me to illustrate this with a short list of food that I've tried:

Kangaroo[Highly Recommended]
Shark Fin Soup[Tastes good, but not good enough to justify the cruelty of the industry. Try a Chinese crab soup instead, it's very similar.]
Duck Fetus[Flavour is OK, but its appearance is just wrong. Gave me food poisoning.]
Fried Bamboo Worm[Tastes like Cheetos, but healthier]
Crocodile[Like chicken but with more awesome]

The delicacies mentioned above are all ones that I consider novel. Occasionally I will mention having tried a certain food to someone that I don't think of as being taboo and they give me eyebrows about it - things like rabbit, caviar or fois gras. But I suppose its all subjective.

As a child, not a birthday passed that I didn't ask my parents for a dog. I loved dogs, cats too for that matter, and dogs loved me back. "He/She really likes you!" I heard this a lot from owners of difficult pooches when they saw how quickly their leashed companions took to me. My best friend in childhood from across the street had two huskies that I played with often, and my roommates in University had a dog that I lived with for two years. So the addition of Dog to the list above may come as a shock even to those that know my eating habits well.

How does a dog lover like me drag himself to a dog meat restaurant? Curiosity[this time it killed the dog...sorry, bad joke]. Curiosity and a belief that putting animals into categories of 'pet' and 'food' are completely culturally driven and not objective rules. If the Vietnamese can eat dogs, so can I. I always make an effort to cross cultural boundaries to strive for a higher, unifying understanding of human nature. That's what traveling is all about, letting go of your inhibitions and taboos.

Now that I got the rationalizations out of the way, let's move on to it. Daphne held no interest in trying dog[she often tells me that I'm more Chinese than she is], so I waited for her to leave town this weekend before my culinary escapade. I drove down to an alley not too far from the backpacking district known for its many dog meat quans and stopped at the first place that said, cay truong. I wasn't sure at first if it was correct. I knew that cay was a word that meant dog, but my last attempt to get dog based on that word didn't work out. It happened like this, I walked into a place for dog and when they didn't understand what I wanted I pointed at a dog that all too conveniently walked up to me at just that moment. Cay also means tree, it was part of their restaurant's name. Really need to pay attention to those accents.

This time though, I was in the right place. They handed me a menu with only two pages, one with the many ways they can prepare the dog meat, all in Vietnamese, and the other half had a list of rice wines and other liquors. I guess alcohol and eating dog go hand in hand? It seemed that way when I ordered iced tea and the server practically scoffed. As for the dog, I ordered thit nuong, which meant barbecued. It was also the only cooking style I recognized on the menu.

The portion they brought me was rather big for one person. I have to say that it looked quite good as far as meats go. It was sprinkled with sesame and served with veggies, rice cracker and pepper/salt for dipping. Now for the tasting. I must confess, despite my rational I was feeling apprehension towards what I was about to do, but as far as I was concerned I was beyond the point of no return. The taste and texture was like a cross between beef and venison, with a hint of what was indisputably dog. I didn't realize that I knew what dog tasted like and it disturbed me to recognize that taste in my mouth. As the serving boys snickered nearby, I was determined not to be beat and finished the whole plate. Afterward, despite my convictions that there was nothing wrong with eating dog, I couldn't help but feel a wave of guilt nausea. A tingling in the stomach, a flush of the face and a few awkward burps. I spent the next couple of hours feeling like a different person. I wondered, will dogs be able to smell my crime and avoid me from now on? That would be tragic.

So, will I ever eat it again? Only if a friend wants to try it, I think it will feel less strange the second time around, but it's not something I'm going to crave. Do I recommend it? If you're like me and you need to try everything, then it doesn't matter whether I recommend it or not, but if you're on the fence and not sure that you can do it then you probably can't.

As for myself, I think I'm basically out of strange foods to eat. I decided to clump cat into the dog category and leave it alone. And as for live monkey brain, no way. Am I missing something? Is there an odd delicacy that I still haven't tried?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Home Again

Daphne says that I have to blog about going back home before I can blog about eating a dog, so this is that. It will be short because it has already been three weeks since that happened and I'm more interested right now in writing about how I ate a dog.

First Stop
We flew into D.C. first but drove the next day to Duck, North Carolina on the outer banks. My brother's in-laws were visiting from Russia and he rented a beach house for a week. We stayed there for four days which we mostly spent sleeping off our jetlag. Breaks in naps were taken to photograph sunsets, do and take yoga pictures and eat lots of meat. Daphne learned that an order of ribs in America comes at ten times the volume of ribs in Asia.

On the Road
We had to drive all the way back to D.C. before we could pick up a rental and then left immediately for Cincinnati, not arriving until midnight. My grandmother stuffed the fridge with food and complained regularly that we weren't eating enough. Things we did in Cincinnati: saw, ate with, drank with friends, grandmother and uncle's family. Had dinner with Saad, who let us take yoga pictures in his house the next day. Went to the zoo with my grandma and cousin. We wanted to go to King's Island and ride some roller coasters but it was closed.

[Yana and Babushka]

[I love coming to see this tiger]

[Amish enjoying ice cream outside of UDF at the zoo]
[Beers overlooking the Cincy skyline]

[Jungle Jim's Blew Daphne's Mind]

[Yoga at Saad's]

From Cincinnati we were Indiana bound to spend the night with an old friend of Daphne. We detoured through Kentucky and stopped into the Creation Museum. This places teaches the 'scientific' theory that the world was created six thousand years ago and that dinosaurs were created the same day as man and were even on Noah's Ark. Fossils are from the flood, and the Grand Canyon wasn't created over millions of years, because Mt. St. Helen blew up once and made a big hole so, naturally, you can assume that the rest of earth's geological feature were created thus. It was big, expensive and equal doses of funny and frightening. Later, in Indiana, had a good time with Daphne's friend, Catherine, and her husband, Tim, who are hilarious.

[Churches that take the symbolic approach of the bible are naughty]

[Veloceraptor behind Adam and Eve]

Gap Day
We had a spare day before our next destination so we went for one night to Chicago. The GPS had a feature to avoid toll roads, which made the going much longer than it needed to be. Once were there, we rushed to the University of Chicago Art Museum and tried to squeeze as much in as we could before they chased us out. We walked around the city and went to The House of Blues, but they were closed for three private parties so we walked one mile to Buddy Guy's Legends. That was also closed for a private party, but only until 10 which was in an hour, so we went across the street to have a drink at a dive bar and wait it out. Everyone else in the bar was also waiting to get into Legends, the place only had music via jukebox and there was only a men's restroom. When the private party left, we enjoyed some good music and a very tasty burger.

A Wedding
Next day, we set out on the road for Pennsylvania, where my two best friends from college, John and Kait, were going to marry each other. I turned off the feature on the GPS that blocked toll roads in order to get out of Chicago faster. This worked, except it also kept us on a toll road the whole trip to within five miles of their house costing us $30 in tolls. Meanwhile, we drove through a blinding storm that was traveling along with us in Ohio. Many cars couldn't take it and just pulled over the side of the road to wait it out, but our ETA was late at night so I couldn't waste time. We arrived safely. The wedding was outdoors and very beautiful. The ceremony was short, we all dressed in Pakistani clothing to please John's Muslim father, Kait did not convert, however, which would have really displeased her Christian parents. My friend, Mike, became a minister online to do the ceremony. After the reception some of us stayed to make a bonfire and camp out for the night.

[Best Wedding Party Outfits Ever]

[Congratulations Guys, You Rock]

We finished back in D.C. where we spent time with my parents and brother and co. We wanted to see the museums of the Smithsonian but there were all so big. It took us two days to see the Holocaust Museum and at The Natural History Museum we couldn't even make it through the Gemstone exhibit.

Sorry to make this blog so short, but I'm trying to catch up to the present so that I can write more, up to date blogs. Peace.