With respect to my open-mindedness, I couldn’t decline a formal invite to eat Bosintang (dog stew). Amid my approach, the question of personal ethics arose. My thought process was this: I eat meats from all other animals, why value a dog’s life over a cow or chicken’s life? Yes, a cow and chicken have lower levels of intelligence and don’t compel the same emotional attachment as a dog, but does this assert that eating a dog is less-ethical? I refute this; I value all animals’ lives equally, therefore I won’t discriminate. Before modern civilization, industrialism, the Food Network, Kroger, and all that stuff, people needed to eat something, anything, to simply survive. With a scarcity of food, but an abundance of dog available, deciding to eat it was an obvious no-brainer. And this is exactly how all cultures are formed, right? What was done in the past will perennially echo in the future as a reflection of a culture’s roots. And in this case, eating dog is a component of Korean culture, and as a traveler I intend to assimilate with all cultures I’m presently immersed in.
Firmly maintaining this conviction, I exited the taxi and observed the restaurant towering under the night sky; an aura of taboo emanated from the building, or was this just in my mind? As I entered inside, I was instantly taken aback by a pungent odor that flooded me with nostalgia of my beloved pet dog Achilles (see photos below). The smell was literally identical to that intimate smell I remember of him; that same smell that lingered on my bed or couch after he slept on it, the smell that at first smelled a bit strange but once learned over time became an indelible remembrance of those warm memories I have of him. I felt like I was maybe betraying him, but my conviction prevailed and it was too late to turn back even through the overwhelming stench.
The meal was served like any other traditional Korean meal; we started with all the vegetables, white rice, and beers. And then they brought out the Bosintang, a dog stew: sliced dog meat inside a boiling broth with vegetables. The smell became even more intense and overbearing. Without hesitance (or appetite) I dove in. No beating around the bush, I went straight for the meat. Dreadfully, it tasted exactly as it smelled but even stronger. The meat was rough, too chewy, and resembled a similar texture to the sliced-beef in those shitty frozen TV-dinners. Simply put, it was NOT delicious.
All in all, though, it was a positive experience; experiencing something different for the first time with good friends and good laughs. As we all humorously suffered together in the end, making witty jokes became the remainder of the night’s theme: “I’m dogged.” “Tonight I’ll sleep like a dog.” “Whatup, dawg?” “What’s your favorite position? Doggiestyle?” “Let’s listen to some snoop dogg” “We shoulda’ eaten hotdogs” “My stomach is growling” and many more I no longer remember.
Some Koreans say that eating dog meat will increases energy, virility, and stamina in the following days. Unfortunately I didn’t feel these effects; I just felt depressed whilst reminiscing and crying over pictures of Achilles.
Would I eat dog again?: No, probably not.
Do I regret it?: No. It gives me a unique memory to reflect, and laugh about.