I was recently talking to my birth-uncle Jed (I know, I have an Uncle Jed) about eating authentic ethnic food. Jed went on and on about how he loves great Chinese food. He told me that every real Chinese joint has stuff in the back that isn't on the menu. When I probed him he kind of looked down and said, "You know, um, dog."
I chuckled at the cliché of ethnic restaurants serving otherwise domesticated animals as food. But, hey, wasn't there a local Filiberto's that had moribund cats hidden in their freezer?
The conversation with Jed should have bothered me, but I kept thinking to myself how mouthwatering and succulent the carne asada burros taste at Filiberto's. I once ate two of them at 2 a.m. (I don't recommend that). I guess you can say I've eaten my share of those nine lives.
"Seriously, talk to the owners at those places and ask for dog," Jed went on, literally drooling as he spoke. "If they don't already have Fido, they will get some for you!"
I find it hard to believe, but in some cultures, dog's a delicacy. God knows I've thought about eating mine a time or two. I told Jed about my travels in China, about how I would bark and shake my head while ordering to make sure I wasn't eating man's best friend. I then went on to tell him about an awkward night at a girlfriend's home.
It started as a typical evening. Amy called on the way home from work and asked me to pick up some things for dinner. Amy and I loved to cook, and I always tried to incorporate something fun into the meal, because she has two kids. I felt like making it a special night, so I thought it would be super-cool to cook up live lobsters for dinner.
I stopped at a fine grocer and made sure to find two spunky specimens that would survive the drive home. I arrived all excited and, after making pleasantries, I popped open the bag of lobsters and let them run around on the kitchen floor.
The kids let out screams and giggles while Amy gave me a deflating scowl. She was playing along, but the scowl told me that I was going to be using bleach on every square inch of that floor before I even got near her panties. The kids quickly scooped up the creatures and ran off to the bathroom tub to play 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. (Don't worry: The lobsters come with big rubber bands on their claws so they can't chop off little fingers.)
I started a pot of water and some butter on the stove while Amy worked on a salad. It was time to get dinner going, so I called the kids in with the lobsters. I took it from the tears pouring down little Julie's face that she wasn't aware we were going to eat her new pets. The lobsters weren't dinner anymore. They were "Pinky" and "Cuddles." (I can't remember if it was exactly "Cuddles," but it was equally cute and stupid.)
I tried to explain how and why we raise animals for food. I went on to tell her about cows and chickens and that chicken nuggets were once little chickens named Cuddles. The crying seemed to escalate, and so did my frustration. If these were my own kids, they'd understand!
I grabbed the two overgrown bottom feeders and said a little prayer. I always say a thank-you prayer before sacrificing lobsters, especially ones with names. I spoke loudly and clearly so everyone could hear over the tears: "Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Lobster, for providing us with nourishment and strength. We thank you and love you."
I think the prayer of thanks is a nice touch, no matter whom you're cooking for. My dear friend Megan taught me this, and for some reason it feels right and it does help take away the guilt — especially when dinner starts thrashing around as it gets boiled alive.
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Plop plop: SLAM goes the lid. Fast-forward 15 minutes . . .
It's a beautifully set table, with candles and wine, and one person sitting at it eating (and drinking heavily). You guessed it — that person is me. The kids refused to eat, and Amy is in the bedroom doing damage control.
If you are going to cook for kids, or if you're dating an animal lover, then don't bring home anything that's still alive. Do yourself a favor and have them steam the things at the store or, better yet, just don't bring home anything that has a face on it.
One more thing about lobster: It's overrated! It's all marketing, just like DeBeers diamonds or a dozen red roses. We've all been brainwashed! Lobster doesn't hold a candle to king crab legs, and lobster is a freaking mess to dismantle, with green goopy crap falling all over the place. Lobster makes a statement and that's it — a statement that you spent a bunch of money trying to get some cuddles.