I ate dog meat, but alas never got the sheep’s eye

I caught up to the Obama-ate-dog story only in replays of the White House correspondents dinner, but this is important: I confess that I ate dog meat, too. It was in the Philippines, in my first foreign posting. I was wandering through the mountains of Cebu province, looking for members of the outlawed New People’s ...

Saul Loeb  AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

I caught up to the Obama-ate-dog story only in replays of the White House correspondents dinner, but this is important: I confess that I ate dog meat, too. It was in the Philippines, in my first foreign posting. I was wandering through the mountains of Cebu province, looking for members of the outlawed New People's Army (remember them?) to interview. The owner of the hut in which we stayed one night offered up breakfast on our way out. "It's black dog," the fellow said, smiling and holding out the delicacy with both hands. "Why thank you," I replied. I dined gratefully. This is called going with the flow. (Memo on how to eat black dog meat while searching for rebel fighters in mountain hideouts: Don't think. Eat. Smile at host.)

My next posting was Pakistan. On a trip through Afghanistan during the Najibullah days (remember him?), I was the guest of some mujahedin in Kandahar province. Near the end of an outdoor dinner, the local commander bestowed on me the most honored morsel he could think of -- a fistful of raw sheep's fat. Mmmmmm. Scrumptious. (Memo on how to eat fistful of raw sheep's fat while with Pathans: Wrap it in naan. Eat fast. Smile at host.)

After that came the former Soviet Union, and fresh camel's milk in Turkmenistan, horse meat in Kazakhstan, and who-knows-what-kind-of-innards in Chechnya.

I caught up to the Obama-ate-dog story only in replays of the White House correspondents dinner, but this is important: I confess that I ate dog meat, too. It was in the Philippines, in my first foreign posting. I was wandering through the mountains of Cebu province, looking for members of the outlawed New People’s Army (remember them?) to interview. The owner of the hut in which we stayed one night offered up breakfast on our way out. "It’s black dog," the fellow said, smiling and holding out the delicacy with both hands. "Why thank you," I replied. I dined gratefully. This is called going with the flow. (Memo on how to eat black dog meat while searching for rebel fighters in mountain hideouts: Don’t think. Eat. Smile at host.)

My next posting was Pakistan. On a trip through Afghanistan during the Najibullah days (remember him?), I was the guest of some mujahedin in Kandahar province. Near the end of an outdoor dinner, the local commander bestowed on me the most honored morsel he could think of — a fistful of raw sheep’s fat. Mmmmmm. Scrumptious. (Memo on how to eat fistful of raw sheep’s fat while with Pathans: Wrap it in naan. Eat fast. Smile at host.)

After that came the former Soviet Union, and fresh camel’s milk in Turkmenistan, horse meat in Kazakhstan, and who-knows-what-kind-of-innards in Chechnya.

What I was never offered in Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan was the most delectable nomad delicacy of all — sheep’s eyeball. In my first book, there is a photo of then-BP CEO John Browne (remember him?) being handed one during dinner over a big Kazakh oil deal that he desperately wanted. When you want an oil deal, you eat the eyeball, and Browne did.

(Memo on how to eat an eyeball — or a sheep’s ear — during oil negotiations in Kazakhstan: Don’t chew. Swallow fast. Smile at host.)

<p> Steve LeVine is a contributing editor at Foreign Policy, a Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation, and author of The Oil and the Glory. </p>

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