I think we spend so much time panicking about what not to feed our pets that we’re forgetting to focus on what they should be eating.
Well, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? What should my dog be eating? It’s not an answer you’ll get a lot of agreement upon. In fact, if you’re into trolling internet chat rooms and like to see bloody melees, I highly recommend going to a raw diet message board and posting how Old Roy rocks. Or vice versa.
This is a topic people get downright emotional about. I consider myself a centrist on this issue, which of course drives people on both sides crazy. As you know if you’ve read the blog for a while, I’m a big proponent of high quality foods, learning to read labels, and choosing pet foods that aren’t filled with garbage (figuratively and literally.)
I’m not telling you that I think commercial foods are better than home prepared foods- I’d love to see more people home cooking. But for the majority of the populace, who struggle with the temptation of convenience versus preparing foods for their human families never mind the pets, commercial is the food of choice. And I would be a total hypocrite to say, “You should really be cooking for your pets,” since I use commercial foods myself.
Now I do think we have let the pendulum swing a bit far in the commercial direction. When clients admit, “I feed my dog people food sometimes,” they say it so abashedly you’d think they just said, “I feed my dog Drano sometimes.”
What is people food? It’s apples and bananas and peanut butter, as well as Dunkin Donuts, Popeye’s Fried Chicken, and pork fried rice. Kale and cola. It can be much better or much worse than commercial pet food. What’s the first thing a dog food says if they are trying to sell itself as a quality food? “MADE WITH HUMAN GRADE INGREDIENTS!” See? I’m going to make a dog food called “People Food Dog Food” and it will be a hit. Hit, I tell you.
My point is, we need to free ourselves of the mindset that people food is poison. Crappy food is poison whether you are a dog or a person. The foods that are wholesome and healthy for us are generally the same for dogs too.
Yes, if you are cooking meals for your dog regularly you are going to need to do some research into balance and protein content and calcium sorts of important long term needs, but incorporating some dog appropriate, low-fat foods from your kitchen into your dog’s rotation here and there isn’t going to make them keel over and die from a kibble deficiency*.
I was in the kitchen on Sunday getting lunches ready for the work and school week, surveying the contents of my refrigerator. Brody sat nearby, eyeing me hopefully. I decided that I would incorporate what I making for us into something for him too (I’ll let Koa participate when her diet is over.) And an idea was born: Why should the dogs miss out on the fun? Why not torture the entire family with my cooking experimentation?
We are going on an epicurean journey together. Wait. Make that a pawcurean journey.
Deconstructed Sweet Potato Salad
Serves 1 Dr. V and 1 Golden or 2 chihuahuas.
Lunch ingredients on hand:
1 baked yam, full of beta-caroteney goodness.
1 box of eggs that are verified to not be on the recall list.
1 bag of spinach leaves that I neglected to photograph.
Step one: after boiling the eggs, waste several of them attempting to use some stupid plastic Japanese egg mold purchased from an online bento store because you think it will make them more appealing to your human children (Step 1 optional.)
See, Brody? Wild rabbit and salmon! … Not falling for it, eh? (the kids didn’t either)
Step two: Wonder why you wasted 45 minutes of your life on making an egg into a rabbit that you are going to then chop up.
Step three: Mash up the peeled yam and divide in half. Mine had a sprinkle of brown sugar and maple syrup. Brody’s had a spoonful of broth.
Step four: I didn’t want to use any fatty binders for Brody’s chopped egg, so I decided we would mold it in a ramekin and turn it into a nice layered yam and egg napoleon. Or did I call it a deconstructed egg salad? I need to review my Top Chef lexicon.
Eat your colors: The children begin to wonder if their insistence on PB and J may be misguided.
Step 5: Take bets on whether the crisp bed of spinach will be eaten by the dog. Oddsmakers have it at 4:1.
I admit I had a pang of misgiving giving this to Brody instead of sliding it into a tupperware for myself. However, I realized this was the first time in my life I envied the contents of my dog’s dinner bowl. Success!
Verdict: Brody devoured the creation, ate a couple of the leaves that still had egg on them, and left the rest to wilt. Next goal: Getting Brody to eat spinach!
*Use common sense when trying out new foods. If your pet has health problems, dietary sensitivities, or you are unsure as to the safety of any ingredients, check with your vet before introducing something new.