Friday, August 20, 2010

Dog's Dinner

When I was in cooking school in England and one of the chefs wanted you to know that you had presented them with something that was truly awful, they might have told you that it looked like "dog's dinner" (or maybe it was dog's has been a while....). Of course the kiss of death would have been that it tasted like dog's dinner.

I probably never actually heard one of our chefs say this to someone—we had a pretty nice and encouraging bunch of chefs at school.  The harsh world of the professional restaurant kitchen is a more likely place to come across such a phrase.  When you think about it, comparing the efforts of a budding chef to dog's dinner is a fairly strong insult. I mean, I don't know about your dog, but my dog eats some pretty disgusting things. I happen to have a beagle, and while I do think that beagles are the garbage collectors of the canine world, even a picky dog eats stuff that isn't all that appealing.

Morning walks with my dog are generally a contest between the two of us. Can she grab that half eaten hamburger before I see it? Can I wrestle the abandoned, and now rotten, hard cooked egg out of her jaws?  In the late winter and into spring her snack of choice is acorns. There are so many of them that I end up getting a sore shoulder from pulling on the leash as she races around behind me, snout to the ground like a vacuum cleaner, attempting to eat them all, every day. I recall reading in Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire that acorns are so bitter that they are nearly inedible. She goes after them as if they were ambrosia.

This time of year her food of choice is the locust. (Isn't that cool?—my dog eats seasonally too.)  She is driven to distraction by their buzzing. And since they are pretty large, they make a substantial snack. I think she is gaining weight. She goes after bumble bees too, but there aren't as many of them around. We have had a bumper crop of locusts this year. 

Her desire for these creatures is a mystery to me. Can they really taste that good? Or is it some other sensory kind of pleasure? A good friend of mine says her dog likes them too.  She has conjectured that locusts and bumble bees must be for a dog what a jalapeño popper is for a human. (Although, wanting to eat a jalapeño popper is a bit of a mystery to me too.)

Ever since the locusts have come into season, my dog is so excited to go for a walk. This has made me pretty happy.  She is getting older and I would have expected her to be less inclined to go for walks...and that the walks we went on would be shorter. Instead, as I lace up my shoes, she sits at the front door quivering with anticipation of the banquet to come. All through our recent heat wave, when even a younger dog might have been expected to drag a bit on a long walk, she has impatiently pulled me along, always on the hunt for the next locust. In the evenings she sits at the back door waiting to be let out into the yard to feast some more.

For people who read my blog to find recipes and cooking tips, I hope you don't mind today's post.  I wanted to take a moment to celebrate my dog and share some of the laughter and happiness that is added to my life by the companionship of a very special beagle. I love my dog.

But since this is a cooking blog, and I titled my post "Dog's Dinner", I should state the obvious—when I cook I am always striving to produce something that would never be compared to dog's dinner. But I also have to say that if the food that I prepare gives my family and friends even a fraction of the pleasure that my dog obviously feels when she has gotten a hold of something she considers to be a particular delicacy, then whatever I have prepared will have been a success—because to bring pleasure and joy is the best reason to cook.


Jen said...

Loved this glimpse into your family... my pug attacks locusts, too. I think he feels especially fierce when he conquers this noisy foe! :-)

Unknown said...

When I was a journalism student, crusty editors would refer to a story that rambled around missing the point as "a dog's dinner," because there was a little information here, and a little information there. I chuckled to learn that "a dog's dinner" is evidently a derogatory term that crosses professions. As dearly as I LOVE your cooking blog, I also loved a peek at your life. But the journalist in me is dying to know--what is your dog's name?

Paige said...

That's funny about "dog's dinner" being used in jounalism. I'm not sure I ever heard the term used in an American kitchen. I heard it in England and I believe I have heard it on one of the few occasions that I happened to see one of Gordon Ramsay's rants--it must be a British term.

My beagle's name is Lucy. :)

Daphne said...

Edgar loved to eat locusts and sucked them up like a vacuum. They are everywhere this year. We are finishing the yard and replacing fencing. I am thinking about how much we miss having a beagle and those soulful eyes to look into. Love your picture, she is adorable. Today is Dan's birthday, and last December we never thought we would be here. Chocolate cake is in the oven. Yea!

Paige said...

I'm so glad Lucy hasn't discovered worm jerky!

Katrina said...

Ew, worm jerky! I've not heard that term before. Been thinking of getting a dog for the, but worm jerky. Maybe not! ;)

Great post, Paige. Lucy looks sweet as can be.

Paige said...

Katrina, You should definitely get a dog--they are so worth it!!

Bailey said...

On Discovery Channel's "Planet Earth," there was a scene where a bunch of grizzly bears were on a (seemingly) barren mountainside turning over rocks. Turns out they were hunting moths, which roosted under the rocks. I guess they're a really great source of fat, and so the bears use them to bulk up for the winter. I wonder if the same is true for your dog?

Paige said...

Hi Bailey, I would like to believe she is doing something sensible like that, but I think she just likes to eat :-)