When moving to a new country, there are certain cultural changes one should expect. One might expect to adapt to new languages, politics, business practices, music, food and beverages. Coming from America, I was bit surprised on one dietary trend in Israel and that is the vast consumption of dog.
Dog eaten for breakfast, dog eaten for lunch, dog eaten for dinner served in all different ways in manners is quite popular in Israel. Now coming from America and being someone who tried to indulge in the full spectrum of culinary treats the world has to offer, I can say I frequently had dog in Asian restaurants and I especially liked the way it was prepared in Thai and Vietnamese establishments. Yet, dog for breakfast? Well, I’ve known smoked dog as a special breakfast treat so I’ve now been trying dog for breakfast here as well. It’s a surprisingly refreshing protein choice for the early morning, not as heavy in one’s gut as other fleshy protein alternatives.
Now, let me clarify one point before I continue. Kosher law is quite prevalent in Israel and those laws specified in the Torah and regulated and clarified by rabbis over the millennium specify that only certain kinds of dog qualify for Kosher consumption. So don’t be shocked that even though the availability of dog from market to market and restaurant to restaurant is bountiful you might not be able to find all the kinds of dog in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv that you might find if you were visiting Bangkok or Saigon.
Of course new international laws are consistently being introduced to make sure that dog populations are sustainable for future consumption though many countries are often at odds at their neighbors or even far away countries trying to prevent poaching of dog from what’s considered sovereign territory. It might seem an odd thing to come to blows over but some countries take their dog consumption quite seriously. The Japanese are renown for their huge per capita consumption of dog and are hugely responsible for driving the prices on the international trading of dog flesh. It’s not uncommon for them to eat some dog while it’s still alive (something strictly forbidden by kosher law). Baruch Hashem for that.
Almost as disturbing as eating live dog is an Israeli tendency to serve the whole dog carcass, head to tail on the table. No matter how succulent a chef’s preparation, it’s not as if such a “face to face” meeting with the special of the day will result in an intriguing conversation. Personally, I find the eyes to have an accusatory stare as if the dog is waiting for my review of the meal.
Of course being someone who’s involved in wine education and commerce, I’m also challenged but entertained by pairing dog with wine. As a lighter white meat, dog goes quite well with white wines. A Sauvignon Blanc is a classic match but dry Rieslings are a good bet, too. Often the sauce or style of preparation the dog is served will dictate the wine pairing but I say certain reds can often be a nice match. A Pinot Noir or Beaujolais can often be light enough not to overwhelm the light and delicate flavors of more delicate fare yet complicated and poignant on the palette to match smoked or more gamey offerings.
I know many of you dog owners might be a bit squeamish about this subject and that once you have an animal as a pet it’s hard to have them on your menu; but, let’s be open minded and who knows over time you might find a way to enjoy both. Though I have to admit that after working on a dairy farm I couldn’t eat meat for months afterwards. Those calves were just so damn cute. Slowly, before you know it I was eating burgers again. I guess for some it’s a choice of one or the other: consumer or guardian. Pal or paté.
In closing, once one puts aside any trepidations over eating dog (as millions if not billions of people do) then enjoy eating dog as often as possible in every way imaginable. Most doctors agree it’s one of the healthiest protein sources offering many more nutrients than beef, lamb or chicken. If as a kosher diner you’re unsure of what dog is allowed or forbidden consult your rabbi . If in Israel it might be prudent to mention the more common transliteration of “dawg” or in America or the Commonwealth of Nations by the English translation “Fish”.
David Rhodes can be reached at Israeliwineguy@gmail.com