Thursday, April 7, 2011

Culinary Canine

Ben is my best eater, hands down. He will try anything, even if it's green. He loves vegetables, exotic foods and doesn't shy away from funky textures or combinations. Nor is he restricted by rules about what is acceptable food for certain times of day. This is a kid who eats cheeseburgers and raspberries for breakfast.

So it's no surprise that I consider him something of an expert on how to enjoy food, and I am not surprised when he stops everything to follow his dad downstairs when it's time to feed the dogs. This is especially true when they are getting leftovers, or as we like to call it, 'something from the big, white box' because the dogs go nuts when we pull something out of the refrigerator to heat for them. Then, noses in the air, they file behind dad as if he were the pied piper, drinking in the smell of melting beef fat that wafts behind him. It's music to their noses, and Ben trails behind them revelling in their excitement, feeling a kinship to those whose passion for food rivals his own.

But the excitement doesn't end there. Once kibble, fat and gravy have been divided and dispersed, Ben stays to watch the pooches chomp and slurp at their breakfast until the empty bowls clang against the tile floor.

On a typical dog food-only day, Flash will nibble his kibble and leave half behind. Sort of like Ben with chicken nuggets. It's bland, boring and processed, and therefore not worth the effort or calories. But when there are leftovers, Flash goes to town. Though only half of Bailey's size and weight, Flash often empties his dish first, putting on a show of grunts and snorts as he goes, as if he can't eat it fast enough. This has always amused Ben, but today something shifted in his thinking, and he commented on it.

"Mom, Flash always finishes his food first, but he just chomps it down. He doesn't saaavor it. He doesn't breeeathe."

He sounded disheartened, as if Flash had let him down, exposed himself as a gourmand rather than a gourmet. Clearly, if Flash eats so fast that he can't even breathe, he is not tasting the food. He therefore must not be enjoying it, and Ben seemed to pity the dog for what he is unknowingly missing out on.

If that's the case, so be it. I chalk it up to Ben's first in what will surely be many character studies. Surely it won't be the only time he sees someone for what they truly are, when reality will shatter illusion and someone will suddenly become a disappointment to him.

I try not to think about the day when Ben will realize his mom and dad are just people, not superheroes, and that we make mistakes like every other human, even when raising our kids.

If I'm lucky, his experience with the dogs will help him retain his faith in us--even after this jarring realization--and his love will continue unwavering.

But I'll be happy if he just deigns to share a good meal with us every once in a while.

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