Sunday, September 25, 2011

End Of An Era Epoch Edible

Really, the end of just one weekend of it. Yes, the rumors you have undoubtedly heard by now -- scandalized, I'm sure, at such a heedless desecration of tradition -- are true: after 600 years, Jinhua City's dog-eating festival, slated for 18 October this year, is no more. Say "ciao" to that Chow-Chow roast, bid fond farewell to Pekingese Pekingese.* ...At least at the festival.

There's some evidence that "dog" may be becoming China's cultural equivalent of "Limberger cheese;" 90 percent of the respondents to a web survey on a Chinese site were against food dogs -- and yet they're still said to be not-uncommon at meat markets (and even in space, taikonauts were served up dog. H'mm, so is that why they didn't get an invite to ISS?). Love it or loathe it -- there doesn't appear to be much neutral opinion.

No dog for you? Don't feel too superior. Dog has been on and off menus for thousands of years, all over the world. Unlike sheep, goats, cattle, fowl or swine, they're usually better helpers than entrees, but for most of human history, our pets and working animals have been one hard winter, war or drought away from the stewpot. When things went to the dogs, our ancestors put 'em on the table.
* Supposedly -- and despite appearances -- this very old breed is closer to the wolf than most domestic dogs. Wikipedia also claims, "...made small so that he could go after and destroy little demons that might infest the palace or temple." My family had one when I was a child and while I don't know if he was much for demons, he was pure-dee hell on wheels where mice were concerned. (One even tried to hide under the family cat!) We also had to keep him from trying to herd cattle; he wasn't very successful at it but it annoyed the farmer.


Joanna said...

You make a good point about famines, etc., but there's a big difference between "We're eating the dog because we're desperate" and "We're eating the dog because he's delicious."

Hat Trick said...

I could never knowingly eat dog.

" (One even tried to hide under the family cat!)"

What a mental image! Is that a comment on the mousing talents of the cat?

Anonymous said...

There go my wok the dog jokes.


(you knew someone was going to say that, didn't you)

Anonymous said...

human rights?
intellectual property?

..but thanks to an online pension they're going to stop a festival that's offensive to popular opinion?


Roberta X said...

Joanna: Point taken, still, many things eaten of necessity are found to be delicious -- the tomato, for example. A relative of deadly nightshade, it was long thought poisonous.

(On the other hand, some foods eaten of necessity or deliciousness are, in fact, poison to a lesser or greater extent: the Grass Pea, for instance, or Poke Salad. The berries of the latter are also useful for ink, dye and can even, I'm told, be mashed up with a wick and burned as a candle.)

Roberta X said...

Hat Tick: He was old and somewhat lacking in ambition. The mouse, dazed and frantic after being flipped up into the air and slapped back down numerous times, ran under the cat, who looked around with the sheepish expression of a sufferer of sudden gastrointestinal upset, while the dog danced in front of him, hoping the cat would return his fine tailed.

Roberta X said...

Terry: Harrumph!

The Jack said...

Ain't just dogs either.

Roof rabbit anyone?

Though China's opinion on that subject is divided (what do you mean a billion+ people aren't homogeneous on that?)

Drang said...

Korea banned dog before the '88 Olympics. Tuned out to be an unpopular decision, you still occasionally saw restaurants flying the red flag that meant that Poshintang was on the menu.
By the time I retired, there was a movement to have the ban rescinded, as suppressing a part of Korea's culture. There was a restaurant a short walk from Yongsan Garrison (8th Army/UN Command HQ) with a large, multi-language sign out front that said "DOG MEAT, BROILED! KOREAN DELICACY! FOREIGNERS WELCOME!" (Only spelled wrong.)

And if you watch the movie "Thunderheart" there's a scene where Tommy Lee Jones is telling Val Kilmer he's best not piss off their seniors in the FBI, or "you'll wind up eating fry bread and dog for the rest of your career."

Art said...

Pa Joe, who came of age during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, has said "First to disappear are the dogs, then the cats, finally the rats" During those trying times it was considered "impolite" to inquire what exactly was being served at any shared meals.

BTW, black dogs, considered the sweetest, went first. Sorry Barkley.

LabRat said...

Re the Pekes- most of the Asian breeds group genetically as "primitive", at least those that aren't local takes on European groups like spaniels and mastiffs. A Peke may be a tiny, fluffy, flat-faced dog, but the canine genome is amazingly plastic and a lot of phenotypic change can be brought about without getting too far off the original blueprints.

Thus Chows, Pekes, Afghans and salukis*, and Akitas all have more in common with each other, and together with wild dogs, than they do with German Shepherds or greyhounds or collies.

*There is a gigantic fight over whether salukis are near/middle Eastern in origin or originally from central Asia. I think the genes argue pretty conclusively for an Asian origin but in the right circles these are fighting words.

Jeffro said...

If bugs and vermin are on the menu, it only seems logical that pets would be as well.

Roberta X said...

LabRat, I was amazed at how much flatter muzzles got for many of those breeds in 18th/19th-Cent. Euro hands. "Plastic" is indeed the word.

"Primitive" seems to imply "smarter" for a lot of dog breeds -- certainly our little Peke was a clever guy.

Jeffo, dog would have to be mighty tasty to beat a nice bowl of deep-fried grasshoppers. Mmm, grain- and grass-fed!

Roberta X said...

(On dog smarts: OTOH, I lived in a duplex in the middle of the country years ago; the previous inhabitant of my side had bred salukis and my neighbor was not impressed: "There's still a couple out in the field; they're not smart enough to come for food or water and it's no good tryin' to catch them." He was of the opinion they'd been bred for too-small a head and run out of room for brains. I dunno, all I ever saw were accelerating, vaguely dog-shaped blurs!)

og said...

I have eaten a lot of things, but I have made the decision to no longer eat any carnivores out of professional courtesy, and avoid even shooting them unless they predate my food source. So cats, dogs, big cats,possum, coon, buzzard, etc. are all off the menu, where cow, horse, pig, chicken, turkey, and other delicious vegetarians are plateworthy. Under duress, of course,all bets are off.

BobG said...

We have a dog-eating population here in Utah; a lot of the Tongan immigrants still chow down on Fido.

Jeffro said...

Roberta: Would you like a little rat on a stick to go with those yummy grasshoppers?

I grew up on a farm, so odd items on the diet are familiar. Mostly it's stuff like organ meats and so on that ends up in our hot dogs and bologna these days.

I'd try about anything once, but I'm too emotionally involved with dogs to consider them as food.

LabRat said...

Yeah, primitive and bright do tend to go together. Human breeding improved a great deal on biddability (willingness to memorize and follow instructions) and on certain skills, but you generally won't find better independent learning and problem-solving skills on even a Border Collie than you will on most of the primitive breeds- and certainly none better than on the dogs that are just a half a step above wild animals.

I read Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs when I was twelve. I had shelties then, which ranked about fifth on his scale at the time. I have Akitas now, which ranked about fiftieth. Coren was completely full of shit, these dogs are three times brighter than my well-meaning little minicollies, they just question MY intelligence.

Re skull size- I've heard a lot of similar grumbling from very old-school collie people, that the narrow, greyhoundish skull squeezed the brains out from the much older, broader skull of the original working collies. (Take a look at modern English Shepherds if you want to see what a collie used to look like, "border" or no.) I tend to be of the belief that show breeders discarded intelligence as a qualification and got what they bred for. I do know a guy with "salukis" (their bloodlines disqualify them from the American breed club, but their ancestors were hunting game on the plains in Central Asia and they are in America) who are terrifyingly bright- he hates what show breeders have done to the breed.

If you want to see what a dog whose skull has truly started to compromise its brain looks like, Google Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and syringomelia. It is, literally, the condition in which the skull is too small/badly proportioned for its brain, and it is horribly painful for the dogs. It has gotten horrifically common and I frankly think the entire breed should be sterilized for humane reasons.

Roberta X said...

Poor little dogs! However, this may explain some of the behaviors seen in the House and Senate, especially among the Congresscritters with a family tradition of such "service."

...Way, way back up the thread, I had intended to write that our Pekingese dog was hoping the cat would return his fine, tailed *playtoy.* Left the last word out.

Joanna said...

Late to the party, but -- according to the 'pedia, the only folks who balked at tomatoes were the Italians (used 'em for table decoration) and the Brits, and the latter is because one influential barber-surgeon got it in his head that they were poisonous. Everyone else (from the Aztecs on up) seems to have dug in with gusto.

Roberta X said...

Ah, you've got me there. See what comes of relying on space-fillers in old Classics Illustrated?