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Tuesday, January 15, 2008



The most readily available meat here is pork. It is not sold under hygienic conditions. There is no refrigeration. Meat sits or perhaps hangs in the open on a market stall in the heat and humidity. The ground below can be pretty disgusting at times and I've seen meat that falls from the bench picked up again and put back. The person who buys it won't know. The seller usually sits crossed-legged on the bench, her feet very close to the meat she will sell for your dinner. The pigs here are bred to be fat. People here appear to be blissfully unaware of the dangers of eating this.

Having lived as a vegetarian for many years it is not difficult for me to bypass pork. I get my protein from either fish or tofu. There are perhaps hygiene issues with both of these too but I see them as lesser evils.

I am aware that my dog needs raw bones to chew on to provide calcium and to keep her teeth in good condition. However, I found that with pork bones she was constantly having trouble with worms. Now she too gets most of her protein from fish.

When I eat fish I buy a slightly bigger piece so there is some left for her. I usually buy one of the more expensive varieties. Perhaps it is a little extravagant for her but is still usually works out at less than $2 for both of us. On the days that I'm not eating fish I buy some of the smaller, cheaper ones for her.

The first day I experimented with this I approached a stall. There was a young woman with three kids selling fish similar to what we in Australia call bream but only about five centimetres long. The oldest child, a boy of about eight, was busy gutting and beheading the fish. There was also a little girl and a baby.

I asked the price. It was quite cheap so I ordered a suitable amount. As she handed them to me she asked, in Khmer, if I would use them to make soup. (People are always interested in what you are eating and how you are going to cook it.) 'No,' I said. 'They're for my dog.' She looked quite shocked. I understood. To her this is probably about as good as she can offer her kids and I'm feeding it to my dog.

Later that day I was having my Khmer lesson. Even though I pay Esther to teach me Khmer I'm teaching her a lot of English on an incidental basis. Khmers seem to have difficulty understanding the difference between 'shy' and 'ashamed'. I was trying to explain this to Esther. My mind was seeking a story to explain 'ashamed' when the little episode at the market that morning came into my head. I told her the story and ended with 'I am ashamed because my dog eats better than many Cambodian children.'

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