Eating Dog Food

Well, whaddayaknow? I have now met two people who have eaten dog.

One did it kind-of by accident, the other most certainly deliberately.  (Yeah, I know eating cow is gross to Hindus, it’s just I grew up viewing dogs as pets, so still seems weird to eat them. But it’s one of the dietary choices in Vietnam, although mainly in the north.)

The first dog-eater was R, a Canadian. He’d had a miserable time in Hanoi because he reckoned he had been held hostage by his hotel. He asked the hotel to get his visa extended, which meant handing over his passport. Without it, he couldn’t really leave the hotel, so he reckoned the hotel was lying when it said it was taking eight days to process.

To add insult to injury , while he was being ‘held hostage’ by the hotel, R ventured into a restaurant that looked pretty busy. He ordered meat, vegetables and noodles. Apparently, the staff gave him a “You do know what you’re doing, don’t you?” kind-of look and pointed over his shoulder, to where there was a whole dog being roasted on a spit, complete with head and bared fangs. R, not wanting to look a wuss or uncool, responded with his best “Of course I know what I’m doing,” expression and tucked in, albeit reluctantly.

While in Hanoi, R also overheard an American man negotiating the acquisition of two prostitutes with a motorbike driver. The first was for, as R put it, “instant gratification”, the second would be someone the man, who works in an oil field where, he said, he couldn’t meet girls, might like to marry. Although this deal fell through, R saw him the following day, arm-in-arm with two young women.

R (who seems to have had a far more eventful time than me so far) also met another man who a couple of years ago found himself in a train compartment with a pissed-up Vietnamese businessman. As the train pulled into the station, the businessman mumbled something to R’s mate about “Do you like girls?” “Yeah,” replied R’s mate. At which point, the businessman disappeared, reappearing a few minutes later with two prostitutes in tow, one for him and one for R’s mate. “My treat,” he said to R’s mate, and he seemed quite affronted when R’s mate turned down his kind offer. However, he wasn’t quite as affronted as the girls, both of whom refused to perform without the other, and were particularly cross as the train was pulling out of the station by this stage.

The second dog eater I met was M. His parents divorced when he was quite young and he was brought up by his radical feminist mother. He’d been vegetarian almost all his life when he set off on his round-the-world trip. When I met him he’d been travelling for about five months, and eaten just about everything – dog, rat, snake, monkey brains. Nothing was too disgusting for him to try. I asked him why. “I don’t want to miss out on any experience,” he explained, although he refused to say whether he had told his mother about his gastronomic exploits.

February 2002

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