Hot-pot

A reader writes:

I am a Chinese-American who moved to China to teach English after college. I was curious to try dog meat, and it was pretty easy to find in my large city in central China. I actually found it very delicious with a very unique flavor and texture, and ate it several times.

It's common to eat it in a "hot pot"- that is, cooked on the table in a shared bowl of boiling water with spices and oils, and then dipped in a sour, spicy sauce. But it's really not such a common thing to eat, as it tends to be more expensive than other meats and generally considered a delicacy. It also tends to be served more in the winter, because of a belief that it "warms" the body - in some sort of odd Chinese theory about foods having effects on the body.

The dogs are not simply ones picked up off the street, but seem to be particular breeds raised for human consumption - large blonde dogs I saw at meat markets. When I asked my students or other Chinese people, many claimed to have never tried dog and expressed little interest in trying it.

I never grew up with a dog as pet, and if I had that might have changed my views about eating dog meat. I tend to view it as a bit of a cultural strength that China has historically lacked restrictions on diet. Why the odd religious restrictions on eating pig, as Hitchens points out in a chapter of "God is Not Great"? The Hindus venerate the cow and do not eat its meat, and that's also considered odd. But India and China make up large proportions of humanity - why are these dismissed as eccentric oddities?

I'm disappointed to learn that there is law underway to ban dog meat in mainland China, and that it is already illegal in Hong Kong because of a law passed by the British. It was also made illegal in Taiwan some years ago. The reasons for banning it seem to have to do with some embarrassment about the way the practice is perceived in the rest of the world.

It really is an interesting cultural and culinary experience to consume dog meat, and I'm frankly surprised at the close-mindedness and lack of cultural understanding I hear from people in the West who find the idea so unpalatable.

(Photo of a dog meat hot pot by Flickrite Sherwin Huang)