Apart from the popular ?bushmeat? phenomenon, Nigerians are fast developing an uncommon appetite for dog flesh. Although dog cuisine has been in existence for decades in backward societies, it has now become a trend in most local ?joints? in Abuja. Dogs which in most Western countries are legendry referred to as man?s best friend is fast becoming man? best taste in this part of the world.
Four-o-four is a southern slang for dog meat, which also is a reference to the dog as a fast runner like the Peugeot 404. The delicacy is served mostly in local beer parlours. Always in high demand, the dogs are got from the thriving dog markets in Cross River, Plateau, Taraba and Gombe States. The meal is sought after by people from different walks of life, including the high and mighty.
So on this cool Sunday evening, Acho is in an ecclesiastical mood as he drives his brand new SUV to Agwu Street in the Diobu area of Port Harcourt. His destination is Mama Awilo?s dog meat joint. But he can?t seem to find a parking space because other VIP patrons have arrived before him to savour the delicacy.
He finally finds a suitable parking space, but another problem looms, Uduak the bar attendant cannot find a sitting space for her latest customer. The place is jam-parked. But Acho is not dismayed, he prefers to wait for some time for the next available drinking table and subsequent savouring of his favourite dog meat peppersoup.
The above story depicts the acceptance of the flavoured 404 meat prepared in different ways like pepper soup and in seasoned palm oil paste. For the curious, this canine cuisine tastes more like pork than like beef but has a distinct flavour. There are a lot more bones, so eating it is more like eating chicken with a much tougher, fattier skin.
At Mama Awilo?s hang-out, this reporter posed as a customer who had fallen in love with her culinary skills. Upon a request for the recipe of the particular meal early ordered for, Mama Awilo willingly offered to name the ingredient which she said ?include a mixture of pepper, onions, palm oil, potassium which is optional, and then garnished with unshelled periwinkle?.
The periwinkle is included so that while your teeth crushes the bones, you can compensate the tongue with the savoury sucking of the periwinkle from the shell. It is alternatively washed down with palm wine, solely imported for her from the neighbouring Eastern villages or with some chilled bottles of beer to cool the peppery taste. The prices here range from N200 a plate served at times with boiled plantain.
The dog head goes for as much as N2,500 and a close inspection is conducted by the customer to make sure no part is missing, as this mistake had been known to cause fists fight between the served and the server of this delicacy. The patrons are also provided an option of take-away packs for those who wish their loved ones at home to have a taste of ?the juiciest meat on earth?.
In and around Abuja metropolis there are zones nicknamed ?South Africa?, ?Zimbabwe?, ?Soweto? and ?Bola? where dog meat is openly displayed; fried, roasted, barbequed, boiled or served as peppersoup.
Upon further probing, Daily Sun discovered that most people who eat this meat believe in the medicinal potency of the meat. In Plateau, this dish is widely eaten mostly by the native Berom. It is also prepared with local spices and for special customers served a la carte.
In one of the local ?Bukas? visited in Jos, Plateau State capital, The Sun met up with a patron, Dashe, who was busy relishing the dish and he said that ?the head of this 404 is far better than ..., it improves sexual performance in a man greatly, it cures a lot of disease like malaria, dysentery in children, protection against witchcraft, typhoid, Gomorrah and I can testify that it works?.
However, medical opinions seem to differ ?The claim that dog-meat is very medicinal and gives immunity from different diseases a myth, it is not true? says Dr. Godswill Meaghana a private medical consultant.
In a country like Korea, they perceive dogs as inherently emotional and friendly to humanity, arguing that the slaughter of a dog for food is excessively cruel.
As the method used in killing these dogs would make an animal-right activist cringe. They are either strangled by an iron noose permanently attached to a wall or simply clubbed to death. In the United States of America one could actually be jailed for such cruelty to an animal.
This not withstanding, dog meat have a growing movement of eaters in Nigeria. The only problem envisaged here is the issue of buying stolen dogs according to Mama Awilo, ?dogs are expensive especially in festive seasons, it ranges from N5,500 and above, so some people tend to steal people?s dogs and sell to us but we don?t buy those ones here to avoid police trouble?. Asked whether accidented dogs are also being sold to her customers, she quickly reacted and swore: ?God forbid, we don?t collect or buy that one, it is dead animal?. Though she agreed that some other restaurants sell such for maximum gain as it is very cheap to buy or freely collect form the road.
According to Ekaette, another operator of a dog meat canteen ?for quick service, we have expressions for the parts of the meat?, she went ahead to educate us on the gearbox which is the dog?s heart, kidney, liver, intestines. Headlights include the dog meat dish, which has all the head parts available with the eyes being the prominent component. And tyre means a dog?s legs cut into pieces for easy consumption.