Tuesday, March 25, 2003

A couple of friends of mine are working on a project called, "Sleeping Lying Heat" which explores the various facets and images of dog, dog eating in relation to Filipinos. The Philippines happens to have been created in the year of the Dog 1898.

Along those lines, another friend referred me to this article by John Feffer on the Politics of Dog which was a link from the Cult of Food site. It discusses how Korea in particular must negotiate this traditional dish (dog stew thought to be a kind of viagra) in entering the global economy.

And somewhere in between is a conversation I was having with the undergraduate student in my office about the internalization of hate and racism in Asian America. He's working on a video project for class.

Americans don't eat dog. Not only do they not eat dog, they find people who do eat dog to be heathens. It's the strongest food taboo there is. Though I've never complained to Americans about eating butter with white rice and marshmallows on sweet potatoes, much less possum.

But I come from a culture that has a reputation of eating dog. I've actually tried the dish before. It's not like you could tell what kind of meat it was unless someone told you. There's even a saying that if you eat dog, other dogs won't bother you (they sense you're higher up on the food chain.) Filipinos do keep dogs as pets and we love them, feed them and name them all the same. But we don't eat those dogs. Actually, eating your own dog is actually quite repulsive to most Filipinos. We eat the stray dog, the road kill dog, one that doesn't have a familial relationship to us. We don't eat our best friend.

But food like dog or even intestines or chicken feet, as seen as savage and uncivilized. And for countries like Korea that are entering the realms of industrialized powerhouse countries (hosting the Olympics and World Cup), food like that comes under scrutiny of the western world, namely the US. Industrialized and modern have replaced the colonial words of savage and uncivilized in the taming of the world.

As the Feffer article indicates, only France has really gotten away without the scrutiny, though they eat horse, mostly because French cuisine is considered the high status of the culinary endeavor.

I'm trying to understand how a nation built on burger joints and steak houses that slaughters millions of cows a day gets all up in arms about dog.

Whenever this issue of dog eating comes up, I often reflect on how Americans have little interaction with the process of their food anymore. The vast majority of Americans no longer grow their own food, they buy it fulling processed and packaged from the store without the eyes, feet, guts, and blood. We don't even see the dirt on our vegetables anymore with sprinkler systems to wash much of that away beforehand.

I have watched pigs and chickens get killed in the Philippines. A pig in particular takes quite a bit of time and the squeals are unnerving, but they do get killed as quickly as they can. And every single part of the pig is used and consumed. Even the leftover scraps get eaten by the house dogs.

Maybe it's because we only really eat the ugly animals. Dogs are simply just too cute to be eaten. Pigs roll around in mud. Chickens are kind of bizarre. Geese are regal looking compared to the turkey.

I'll leave this post with a poem written by Catalina Cariaga in response to her neice (maybe it was her nephew) who asked her if grandpa and grandma ate dog:

No, they didn't eat dog.
They didn't have dog.
If they had dog,
they would have eaten it.

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