Charity Saving Animals From Illegal Dog Meat Trade In Thailand

dog meat
Dog meat for sale in Hanoi (Wikipedia)

Thailand has a thriving illegal trade in dog meat. While authorities have been cracking down on it recently, the demand is such that many dogs are stolen off the streets to supply restaurants in Cambodia and China, where the consumption of dog is legal.

Now a charity in Phuket, Thailand, is trying to save these animals. The Soi Dog Foundation has taken in hundreds of dogs seized by Thai border police and is asking for sponsors and adoptive families. Dog lovers as far away as Scotland have taken in some of the pets, but there are many more stuck in the charity’s bursting facilities.

While stealing pets and smuggling them across the border is certainly wrong, not to mention illegal, is eating dog meat wrong? Different cultures have different standards as to what food is OK and what isn’t. Hindus will tell you that eating any meat is wrong, and that eating beef is the worst of all. In Slovenia, they eat horse burgers, and while I’ve always loved horses I did give them a try. Horses are no less intelligent, loving and loyal than dogs, so what’s the problem? Is it all a matter of perspective? Tell us what you think in the comments section!

Want to read about some more shocking foods? Check out our post on the weird things people eat around the world.

Sacramento Serves Up Second Annual Baconfest

porkPork products may have reached their tipping point, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate their existence. The second annual Sacramento Baconfest, held January 20-27, pays tribute to “pork from pigs who lived healthy, happy lives at farms where farmers value ethical and sustainable food production.” I’ll scarf some pork belly to that.

All bacon and other charcuterie served at Baconfest are made in-house by “Sacramento chefs who give a damn about quality natural foods.”

So besides cured meat products produced by introverted industry people with tats of butcher’s charts on their forearms, what can you expect at Baconfest? Besides lots of saturated fat? For starters, there’s an opening night party at Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co., featuring a special menu by chef Brian Mizner. There there’s the BLT Bike Crawl; Baconfest-vs-Sacramento Beer Week; a Chef’s Competition; a “secret event,” and a multitude of special dinners and happy hours. And let’s not forget the “Second Annual Kevin Bacon Tribute Night,” which features local bands playing songs from the actor’s films (“to the first degree.”).

Sounds like a blast, and the makings of a swine time. And hey, check this out: most of the events are free; those that do charge minimal fees give back to local chefs, restaurateurs and the very fine Center for Land-Based Learning in nearby Winters.

[Photo credit: Flickr user ChefMattRock]

Vegetarian Travelers Still Experience Culture

“You can’t travel if you don’t eat meat,” says a person who likes to both travel and eat meat.

But that’s not true – of course you can travel if you don’t eat meat. Contrary to what many travelers and even travel writers believe, you can genuinely learn about and experience another culture without eating meat or any other food your diet restricts. I’ve traveled as a meat-eater, a pescetarian, a vegetarian and a vegan. I’ve watched as others have shaken their heads in disbelief, unsure of why I’d ever travel in the first place if I didn’t want to taste what steak is like in another country. I’ve heard some people claim that travel and meat eating are so inseparable that culture simply cannot be experienced while practicing a plant-based diet. This is misleading and unnecessarily dissuasive.

Culture is a term we use to describe myriad facets of any given society. Merriam-Webster defines the word as:

1

a : the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thought, speech, action, and artifacts and depends upon the human capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations

b : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group

Food is just one part of culture. Food is important because we need food to survive. We eat several times a day. We eat socially. We eat emotionally. We love to eat. So let’s get something out of the way: those who do not consume meat (or nuts, soy, gluten, alcohol or caffeine, for example) do still consume. I’ve visited countries around the world and sometimes I’ve eaten animals or animal products in those countries and sometimes I have not. But no matter what I eat, I’m eating unfamiliar food that is prepared in a way that is new to me when I travel. I’ve tried fruits and vegetables that I never knew existed but are simultaneously staples of the diet in other cultures. In that way, I’ve experienced the food of a different culture and all of the excitement that it brings without having to eat meat.

Because we spend so much time eating and because eating is often communal, having a restrictive diet can make it more difficult to eat with others, especially while traveling. If you don’t eat meat, you may have to disclose that to restaurants or hosts in advance. You may have to work extra hard to seek out places that serve what you want to eat. You may have to go grocery shopping while traveling (which is one of my favorite things to do and a good way to gain cultural insight, anyway). You may get lucky enough to have a host who is willing to prepare animal-free food for you. Some cuisines of the world are laden with meat while others are based in vegetables. The difficulty you’ll have eating as a vegetarian will depend on where you are. No matter the case, you will eat and what you eat will likely be different from what you normally eat when you’re at home.

What’s important to recognize though is that food is not the only part of culture. Similarly, an anything-goes diet is not necessary for experiencing culture. If you have dietary restrictions, that’s fine. I think we should treat food as medicine and think carefully about what we put into our bodies as regularly as possible, even when we’re on vacation. If you’re visiting a place wherein locals eat a cow tongue and lard custard, you don’t have to feel guilty when you choose not to try it. You can learn about this specific food, if you care to, by asking questions and by learning about the history behind the dish. Nothing compares to trying a dish for yourself, but you don’t have to try everything to be a good traveler. You can enjoy other aspects of the culture at hand. You can explore the arts community, listen to live local music and dance the traditional dances of the region all night long. You can listen to and share stories with locals. You can go swimming where locals go swimming. You can shop where they shop. You can visit their churches and schools and you can drink their wine.

This idea that culture cannot be experienced without throwing caution to the wind and eating whatever is set before you while traveling is misguided. I’ve traveled and eaten in the places I’ve traveled to with meat and without meat and the difference between the two is hardly memorable at all for me. Travel might be a more difficult if you have diet restrictions, but travel might also be more difficult if you have other restrictions – like being too scared to go free-diving with the locals, insisting on speaking English in a non-English speaking country or not going out dancing because you don’t like to dance. Lest we continue even further down the wrong path when discussing travel with others, let’s remember that learning about and experiencing another culture is not contingent solely on what you do or don’t eat.

Travel Tip: Learning Local Culture

An Artisanal Taste Of Denver, Colorado

wine While it’s easy to find big-name chain restaurants and mass-produced foods, it’s always nice to get a more local experience. One city with excellent quality and craft tastes is Denver, Colorado. To help you navigate the artisanal flavors of the area, here are my top picks.

Wine: D’Vine Wines
1660 Champa Street

The only winery in downtown Colorado, D’Vine Wines, also known as the Wild Women Winery, imports grapes from California then ferments them and puts their own unique spin on the blends. It’s a boutique winery with a cozy and inviting atmosphere, as well as a friendly and knowledgeable staff who will help you learn about the art of wine tasting. For example, I learned that to aerate the wine you don’t softly move the glass around, but fervently spin it in quick circles while pushing the base of the glass down onto the table. Likewise, the drier the wine, the higher the alcohol content because it has only a small amount of residual sugar. You can do tastings for three for $5, seven for $10 or four for $12 with a souvenir wine glass. Some of the best wines I tasted included:

  • Sangiovese- Made with the grape used to create Chianti, it has a silky finish with flavors of strawberry and plum.
  • Zinfandel and Syrah Blend- While these two aggressively flavored grapes are not usually combined, the Zinfandel is so light it tastes better blended than alone. Together the two compose a spicy wine with a smooth fruit finish.
  • Green Apple Riesling- This wine tastes just like a sour apple Jolly Rancher, and smells like one, too. It’s a tart yet refreshing sweet white wine.
  • Chocolate Port- A unique desert wine, it is fermented to a higher alcohol content while using less brandy than most port wines. It’s smooth and sweet, with a dark chocolate finish.

A fun aspect of the wines is each variety has its own special bottle, complete with a sexy female character and story. You’ll get to know ladies like Miss Booty, Dusty Twilight and Royal Ruby, and how they relate to these delicious and rare wines. Moreover, the winery allows visitors to make their own wine with help from qualified vintners.

cheese Cheese And Meat: The Truffle Cheese Shop
2906 E. 6th Avenue

As soon as you walk into this gourmet cheese shop your nose will be in heaven. The Truffle Cheese Shop features hard to find specialty items and rare cheeses. They work under a sustainable philosophy, creating organic, free-range and all-natural products. What’s really great about the shop is they offer free cheese and meat tastings. Some of the best things I sampled include:

  • Memoire Truffle- This Dutch Gouda cheese is made with heady Italian truffles and packs an Earthy punch.
  • Goat Cheddar- This blended cheese has a sweet, mild flavor. It’s less aggressive than goat cheese, but still gives you that interesting flavor.
  • Charloe- This raw cow’s milk cheese has a delicate aroma, and a hint of roasted nuts.

This is the perfect place to plan for a picnic, as the shop also offers sweets, crackers, pickles, olive tapenades, hot sauces, jams, olive oils, vinegars and unique cured meats like venison and duck salami and traditional Spanish chorizo. Additionally, on weekends and certain weekdays, The Truffle Cheese Shop offers cheese classes and events.

olive oil Olive Oil And Balsamic: EVOO Marketplace
1338 15th Street

EVOO Marketplace is a truly one-of-a-kind shop, as it’s essentially a giant tasting bar of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. It was the first of its kind in Colorado, and is still family-owned and operated. The shop features over 50 products to sample in unique flavors. Moreover, you can basically travel without leaving the store, as the oils and balsamic vinegars come from all over the world like Italy, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, California and Tunisia.

In terms of olive oils, some of the unique flavors include Persian lime, wild mushroom and sage, black truffle, roasted almond, grape seed and arbequina. For the balsamic vinegars, visitors can sample blood orange, dark chocolate, blackberry-ginger, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon pear and Vermont maple. Tip: Mix the blood orange balsamic with the dark chocolate. My friends and I were all in agreement that the blend was one of the best things we’d ever tasted.

beer Beer: Falling Rock Tap House
1919 Blake Street

While there are myriad breweries and brew pubs in Denver, the Falling Rock Tap House has something special about it. The boutique brewery just turned 15 years old, so they’re not new to the beer business. In fact, you can check out the wall of over 2,000 beer bottles lined up, most of which owner Chris Black drank himself. Additionally, they feature 88 beers on tap, making them one of the largest breweries in Denver. What I really love about this place, though, is how the bartenders are completely honest. For example, when I went to order a Redstone Meadery Sunshine Nectar, he answered, “I don’t think you should get that. It’s terrible.” He then suggested the Julian Apple Cider, which was delicious with a refreshing, crisp taste and a bit of tartness. I also sampled their Rockyard Hopyard, a lightly carbonated pale IPA that had a hoppy taste, with hints of oats and grain. Other popular choices on the menu include Dry Dock Double IPA, “Bull & Bush” Big Ben Brown, “Sandlot” Barmen and “Avery” White Rascal.

hot dogs Unique Delicacies: Biker Jim’s
2148 Larimer Street

Biker Jim’s is a unique hot dog eatery beloved by both locals and travelers. While they do serve beef, you’ll also find elk, rattlesnake, pheasant, reindeer, buffalo, wild boar and duck dogs. If you’re in the mood for something really juicy and fattening, their bat dog is made of bacon, and topped with bacon bits, avocado and tomato cream cheese. It’s also a great place to eat on a budget, as hot dogs start at $6 and cost $1.50 extra for unusual toppings like Harissa roasted cactus with Malaysian jam, scallions, cilantro and onions and cream cheese with caramelized onions. They’re open late on weekends, and also have a food cart across from the clock tower on the 16th Street Mall.

chocolate Chocolate: Dietrich’s Chocolate & Espresso
1734 E. Evans Avenue

Dietrich’s Chocolate & Espresso was opened in 1975 by a German man named Erich Dietrich. While growing up in Germany, he apprenticed under a master chocolatier, learning the craft of fine chocolate making. Walking into the shop, you’ll be amazed at the cases of flawless handmade chocolates. You can sample chocolates and truffles for $1.50 and up. Some interesting chocolate varieties include hot chili pepper, pomegranate truffle, French mint, blueberry pecan and creme brulee truffle. Additionally, the shop is the only place in Colorado where you can find chocolate made from the rare Peruvian cacao bean, Nacional. They also serve breakfast and lunch if you’re in the mood for food.

Grilling Around The Globe: A Memorial Day Photo Tribute

Where there’s smoke, there’s barbecue – and there’s no better time than Memorial Day to light that grill. This year, instead of the same old, same old post on burgers, food safety and how not to burn the patio down, I thought I’d offer a photo tribute to grilling in all of its glorious permutations around the globe.

I confess to taking some liberties, and adding a few methods that don’t call for an open flame. The Hawaiian imu is a familiar site to luau lovers; it’s a pit filled with hot rocks that effectively roasts the food (in this instance, pork). The curanto from the Chilean archipelago of Chiloe is also Polynesian in origin (hailing from Easter Island, or Rapa Nui) and operates on the same principle, but also includes shellfish and potato cakes called milcao and chapaleles. Spit-roasted suckling pig, whether it’s Filipino lechon or Cajun cochon de lait, by any other name would taste as succulent.

Argentina remains the indisputable holy grail of grilling but plenty of other countries utilize fire –indirectly or not – to cook food, including Japan, Morocco, Turkey, Vietnam and Australia. Enjoy the slideshow and don’t forget to wipe your mouth.

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