Saturday, September 4, 2010
Before I’d set off for a recent trip to Northern China, I remember my friend pulling me aside at a dinner party, and with that slurred solemnity induced by four shots of vodka, she made me promise her that I would not eat dog meat. Thinking about the various dishes I’d sampled at local restaurants and side streets, I really can’t be sure if I’ve broken my half-hearted vow to her, but I doubt it. Dog meat, according to the Chinese side of my family, has a distinctly pungent taste and aroma. Regarded as ‘the fragrant meat’, it’s been part of a longstanding culinary tradition, known to keep diners warm in the winters and to speed up the metabolism. This however, as expressed by the pleading, wide-eyed horror of my friend, can be very difficult for many of us to stomach. While we suffer no qualms feasting on the flesh of other animals, dogs and cats are simply out of the question. A dog is no gentler than a lamb, smarter than a pig or even more affectionate than a goose (as anyone who has kept a pet goose or chicken that nestles in your lap while you watch the television and follows you keenly around the house would know), so is it really a matter of morality or cultural gap?