It’s 1pm on a Tuesday afternoon and I’m walking down the street in Lang Son, Vietnam. Motorcycles busily scoot through the streets nearly crashing into each other, just barely missing collision in a controlled chaos that would make Carl Marx envious. As I weave through the tangled web of tires, various smells waft through the breeze. Familiar smells, such as roasted chicken, garlic, ginger and garbage waft through the air. As I take it all in, I notice something out of the corner of my eye and turn to get a better look. It is something roasting over an open fire, and at first glance looks like a pig. But after glance number two, I notice that this pig is different. It has a long face, is thinner than any other pig I’ve seen, and most noticeably – it has sharp, pointy teeth. As I stare at this soon-to-be meal from across the street with ever-growing widened eyes, it dawns on me: this is a mother fucking dog. That ginger I smelled was both the spice and man’s best friend. Oh shit.
That’s right, in Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia, eating dog meat is commonplace. Yet so is owning a dog as a pet, ignoring a dog as a street creature, or owning a dog as a pet and chaining it up outside as an imprisoned street creature.
And if that’s not enough, upon further investigation, it appears that eating dog could even give you a boner.
Apparently consuming dog meat provides an increase in “manhood”, which appears to be Vietnamese code for erection (that or Bar Mitzvah, but I’m pretty sure it’s the first one). To examine this relationship a bit more, I took to the streets to get more insight on what this relationship is all about, and where the line is between man’s best friend and man’s tasty meal.
I met with a kind and above average-looking Vietnamese man with refined taste in food by the name of Cong. We met at a coffee shop, which I checked out in advance to ensure that they did NOT serve dog, given that I was determined to get through the interview without vomiting.
Here is what I learned:
Me: Please describe the relationship you have with dogs here.
Cong (translated from a heavy Vietnamese accent): Dogs are our friends. And our protectors. And homeless. But sometimes, also our dinner.
Me: Ok, so it appears that this relationship varies quite a bit from one dog to the next. At what point does playing fetch end and being thrown over a fire and smothered in sauce begin?
Cong: What does smothered mean?
Me: To cover thoroughly, as in smother with a delicious BBQ sauce to eat.
Cong: Ah, yes. We only eat dogs that are not cute. The ugly, street dogs.
Me: So you only eat dogs who are homeless and ugly?
Cong: No, we eat the dogs who would be homeless if we didn’t eat them.
Me: What about a dog that is beautiful, but dumb as a rock and incredibly juicy. Would you eat it then?
Cong: No, it’s natural beauty would save it.
Me: Nice. So it’s survival of the sexy.
Cong: What is sexy?
Me: You tell me.
Me: Nevermind. What type of dog would you say is the tastiest?
Cong: Oh. Probably just the large, homeless looking ones.
Me: Got it. Now, I’ve heard that there’s a bit of a male incentive for eating dog meat around here, aside from its taste. Can you please explain what that is?
Cong: Yes. Dog meat is good for your manhood.
Cong: You know…manhood.
Me: Do you mean that eating dog meat is like attending a Bar Mitzvah? Or growing pubes? Or drinking beer and watching football?
Cong: No. It helps your natural function.
Me: Natural function? Like with taking a crap?
Me: Taking a shit.
Me: Are you talking about penises?
Me: OooooOOOOooh OK. Got it. So eating dog meat makes your penis hard.
Me: In America we have a saying, “Bros before hoes.” In Vietnam, do you say “hooch before kooch”?
Cong: What is a hooch and what is a kooch?
Me: Nevermind. I’ll assume the answer is yes. Dogs are filthy animals but they’re also very loyal. When you eat dog before sex, are you trying to become more filthy or more loyal or both?
Cong: Both. Especially when I’m doing doggy style.
Me: Nice! (Gives high five)
Me: If you don’t eat meat does that make you gay?
Cong: No, I don’t think so.
Me: If you are a man who has sex with other men, but eats a lot of dog meat, does that make you less gay?
Me: What if you are a straight, manly man who eats lots of dog meat, but primarily from dogs who have a gay sexual past? Does that make you gay or manly? Or both?
Cong: Ummm. I don’t think dogs can be gay.
Me: Ummm I don’t think you know enough about dogs. Clearly you’ve never seen “Lassie.” Is there a line that the Vietnamese won’t cross when it comes to eating things? If so, what is it, and why there?
Cong: We don’t eat insects or worms. Or deer, because we don’t have them.
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL!
Here’s a clip of me asking Cong about which famous dogs he would like to eat. And which give him the biggest erection.
Chris Blackwood is an international reporter for Grassroots Comedy DC. He is currently on assignment in Vietnam.