I have maintained for a very long time, the best way to experience a culture is through the food. Like many new travelers, I started off skeptical and apprehensive to try new food. I distinctively remember the first time I saw an octopus leg in my soup. I was so angry I was about ready to press charges on the school and head back to America- no exaggeration. I eventually tried, and liked it. I soon found myself eating it alive!
Living in Asia, and traveling abroad I have found myself eating things I could not have foreseen myself eating in America. The very thought of eating pickled cabbage, for example, still makes me a bit jittery. Still, after 10 tries, I have found myself in love with kimchi! While in Thailand I was coaxed into eating deep fried bugs. I sampled raw fish, eel, snake, snake blood, and just about every oddity and I thought there was to eat, until…
I got an invitation to try the famous “boshintong” from an adult student from the Korean Stock Exchange. I more than happily agreed, until the day came. Literally, the whole day I was sick with knots and butterflies in my stomach. When I saw the meat (we were literally given the leg and we could still see the paw on it), I instantly became naucious. I felt as though I could faint and knew I was not up for the task. That is, until alcohol came to the rescue- about 3 glasses of beer and 6-7 shots of soul! At that point, I probably would have killed the dog and cooked it myself!
I ate, and did like. The meat was rather soft and flavored. It tasted as though it might had been marinated for several days. It went down quite well, and was mostly pleasurable- save the slight stench. We had a great time, along with one of my college buddies I met up with in Korea. We ate all the side dishes and knocked out quite a few bottles of soul and talked about all things Korean. Though, I was disappointed that my student abruptly got up went home. Although, considering that dog meat is an alleged aphrodisiac, I could hardly blame him.
The real kicker of this story is the response to people in America to me eating man’s best friend. I swear, I had people threaten to kill me and calling me everything from a monster, to “un-American” on YouTube (yes they really did call me that though I could not see any logical connection between the two). I had some people so furious that I ate dog, they hacked into my YouTube account and deleted my videos- some of which I had no back up to and were lost forever. My mom told me directly she was disappointed with me. And, my sisters (both dog lovers) were less than thrilled when I recalled the story in such a nonchalant, joking manner.
The reality is, I learned from this situation a valuable lesson about life and culture- at the sake of a poor dog. We are all different and find many things appropriate and acceptable. When I think of comparing and contrasting the west, I can think of no better example than the east- both literally and metaphorically speaking. We all have different tastes and likes. One does not make another superior/inferior. Different cultures find certain practices offensive, while others don’t. I for one, was not about to make the call that I was more cultured, humane, or had a better sense of taste than my fellow Koreans. And besides, I rather liked the dog.