DOG SOUP: TABOO
Dog soup: Taboo
This was the third restaurant that I had approached to ask if I could be taught how to make dog soup. We were denied twice before: Once up front and the other place asked me to come back again during Dog Soup season in July. When I did, I was turned down.
Dog soup is a traditional Korea soup largely criticized in Western countries. It is famous in Korea for its health benefits, known for building men's stamina. It is a specialty meat in Korea and cannot be easily brought from a supermarket butcher. The specific breed of dog is large and raised on farms like cattle. The recipe is not extraordinarily difficult, but every maker has their own style. The main ingredients include: dog meat, vegetables for stock, sesame seed oil and red pepper and/or fermented soybean paste.
I was accompanied by a Korean volunteer who interpreted my request to be taught how to make dog soup and by a film maker documenting our artist residency. The actual intervention I had anticipated doing did not occur.
This encounter brought up questions of how animals are cultivated in the West, which in the big food business economy, is just as cruel. It also considered the reaction of people in Korea who eat this soup, to foreign visitor inquiry on the tradition. More often than not, it is a resistance to the Western/colonial behavior of "teaching" other what is right rather than the humane treatment of the animal.
The dialouge below is a translated transcription from footage of what occurred.
Volunteer: Hello. I would like to ask you something if you have a moment.
Volunteer: In Seoksu market, there is an international program with artists from all over the world. They are doing different projects in and about the Seoksu Market area. This is one of the artists and she has been learning how to make traditional Korean foods. She would like to learn the process of making dog soup.
Man: Who recommended me?
Volunteer: Mr. Park Chung En, from the Seoksu Art project.
Man: Well, right now the cook isn't here so I can't ask her.
Volunteer: That's OK. Even if she's not here on another day, we'd just like to see the process of making dog soup and be taught it. Would that be OK?
Man: It's not possible right now to make dog soup. In the summer it's impossible to make it.
Volunteer: But, isn't dog soup season in July? Don't you make dog soup in the summer?
Man: Yes, that's true, but I can't show you
Volunteer: We really wouldn't trouble you during the process...
Man: Well, you will even if you don't intend to disturb the cook and me. Your presence will disturb us.
Volunteer: Would it be possible just to watch for no longer than 20 minutes? That would be enough.
Man: What do you really what to know? What's the point?
Volunteer: The artist just wants to be taught how to make the dog soup. We really wouldn't stay all day. We'd only stay 20 minutes.
Man: What do you really want?
Volunteer: We won't do anything to disturb you. We just want to watch and learn the process and if it's possible she'd just like to help you do it.
Man: It's impossible to learn to make dog soup in one day.
Volunteer: She wouldn't make it again. We just want to learn how it's made. That's all. We don't need your exact recipe.
Volunteer: Is it possible?
Man: Well, if you're there you will be disturbing us and then the process will not go well.
Volunteer: But would it be at all possible?
Man: If you're there you'll disturb us and the process.
Volunteer: Could we make the dog soup when there aren't any customers? We could then eat what we made together?
Man: Just watching a process doesn't make any sense.
Volunteer: The artist just thinks it's a traditional Korean food and she wants to learn more about it. She's already learned how to make other traditional foods. We wouldn't film anything.
Man: Well, if you really want to learn how to make it, go to another place, a bigger restaurant.
Volunteer: You were recommended to us as a traditional restaurant.
Man: Yes, our restaurant is traditional, but it doesn't make any sense that you just want to learn how to make dog soup. It doesn't make sense. (pause) What's your purpose for wanting to see and make it?
Volunteer: The artist comes from another country and she's an artist so she wants to learn more about traditional foods in Korea as a cultural exchange. I promise we really won't disturb you. Could you just give us the chance to see the process?
Man: Actually, making it isn't difficult. We just make it.
Volunteer: Okay, but seeing the process is better than not seeing it.
Volunteer: Could we please just watch you make it? We promise not to disturb you.
Man: No. (pause) Some people came here before asking the same thing and they disturbed us.
Artist: He's said no? If he really minds, then let's forget it. Just thank him for his time. We didn't mean to trouble him.
(man walks away)
Volunteer: Thank you then. We're sorry to trouble you.
This is the transcribed dialogue of an intevention