By John E. Carey
October 29, 2006
Republished October 20, 2007In Honor of Ellen and her Dog
Since I lived in China I have eaten dog. But because I am a man, and a foolish one at that, I have eaten even more crow!In China, my hosts took me to a very fine restaurant for a celebration. We had egg drop soup, lots of rice, some wonderful Chinese beer. And during the meat course, one of my hosts announced that this is the best dog he ever had.I felt like I had “Lassie” on my plate. But only for a moment.
I had been inside China in a place where I was virtually the only (and the lonely) American for about two months when I realized, as the Chinese say, “I need to find my happy.” One of my Chinese friends actually said to me, “You lose your happy?”
So I did as I had done before in strange places, I set out to discover that they were wonderful.
My father taught me that, “Often in a new place or situation you’ll be terrified. When you get that feeling, dive in even further. Go native. Give up your inhibitions.”
Find your happy.
So that night, as I sliced and ate my Lassie, I asked a question about Chinese culture. Or two.
The first question was, “What kind of dog is the best dog?”
A gigantic discussion ensued among the Chinese. Every man had an opinion on his favorite dog. I figured I’d get an answer like, “The best dog is a poodle, grilled.” Or maybe “I like basset hound, stuffed with rice and baked.”
I didn’t get any answers like that.
The Most Honored Host proclaimed, “The best dog to eat is black dog.”
Then I was fool enough to ask, “What is the strangest thing eaten in China?”
Well, who from China can tell? Nothing is strange to THEM. So I had to ask all kinds of probing questions about the various dishes and side dishes of Chinese cuisine.
I almost choked when one of my hosts raved about all the different kinds of Penis her Mom used to serve up. Ox penis, horse penis. “It make you strong,” she said.Yikes!And they cook penis all kinds of ways. I kid you not.My Vietnamese wife said she used to like it but you “can’t get good penis in America.”
A lot of women say that.
Recently the famed British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) sent the very stiff upper lip reporter Andrew Harding to the best little penis emporium in Beijing. No fooling.
I’ve been there and the food is great.
But DO NOT go there until you have reached the “dive right in phase.”
And still, I can’t wait until I run into Harding and ask him, “Andrew, in Beijing, how was the penis?”
The moral of this story is this: when living in a culture clash: dive right in.
I have now been with my Vietnamese wife so long that I will eat things out of the refrigerator without knowing what they are.
One morning I said to her, “That was great SPAM in the refrigerator. I ate it last night.”
She said there wasn’t any SPAM in the refrigerator. I decided not to ask what was missing.
One night I actually woke up at midnight and ate something in a plastic container even though I had no idea what it was. I didn’t care. Hunger, and diving right in, can do that to a man.
Now about eating crow.
I’ve learned that when you screw up: admit it. So I eat crow. I’ve eaten crow before. I apologize and move on. I send an email, make a call. And I sometimes apologize in public on web sites. Just eat the crow and be done with it.
Now for Ellen’s repossessed dog: we have no tears. But we do have a good gravy recipe!