Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A taste sensation, a joy, a celebration in a bun

Sophie loves the Pigeon books by Mo Willlems, whether it's the classic Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! or The Pigeon Loves Things That Go!. Her latest obsession though, is Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!- since last week, it has had a permanent place in our bedtime rotation of books and there have been nights-- like tonight-- where I've had to read it multiple times in a row. There's something about the cheekiness of the banter that Sophie really enjoys, I think and she giggles every time The Duckling makes a wisecrack (or she could just be laughing at the affected voice I use when I read The Duckling's lines). But the funny thing is, I'm not sure how she's appreciating the basic premise of the story when she's actually never eaten a hotdog, or seen one, come to think about it.

Now, not that I'm in a hurry to usher Sophie into the particular world of processed meat in tube form (in the words of Anthony Bourdain), but when we were invited to a friend's son's first birthday party this weekend and were asked to bring something for the grill, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to make an "event" out of this whole hotdog business.

And so before we left for the store on Saturday, we read the book a couple of times and I told Sophie that we would be going to the store to buy real hotdogs for dinner. I'm not sure if she completely comprehended what I said, but she seemed suitably eager and excited. On the car ride to the store, I reminded her that we would soon be just like Pigeon and The Duckling, holding a hotdog in our hands and enjoying how "yummy, yummy, yummy" it would be, and she responded by going "Yay!" and "Hooray!" whenever I mentioned the word hotdog. Okay, so far, so good... We get to Whole Foods and I let her choose the sausage (all-beef) and the buns (honey wheat) and we even contemplated fixings like relish, ketchup, and mustard. But I figured 1) what's a grilling birthday party without condiments?; and 2) for Sophie's first hotdog, we should stick with the plain and pure.

So we get to the party and by this time, Sophie's *really* excited. She's playing with all the different toys strewn everywhere for the little ones, there are balloons galore, she got to enjoy a juice box all by herself, and most importantly, Mama here had promised her a tasty morsel of hotdog just like Pigeon and The Duckling shared! We watched together as as the guy manning the grill heated the sausage up just enough without getting it too charred and warmed the bun up a little too, just to make it just right. I mean, when I put the thing together, it was about the most perfect plain hotdog you can imagine- the edges of the sausage just peeking out the ends of the bun, the bun warm to the touch but not too toasty, and the sausage glistening from the grill but with none of the jarring grill marks. Folks, it was the Platonic hotdog, the kind of hotdog you'd put on the cover of a Coney Island menu, a hotdog that looked about as close to Mo Willlems' illustration of the hotdog in his book as you can envision. I couldn't have done better if I tried.

I showed the hotdog to Sophie with so much fanfare, you'd think I was presenting her to the Queen of England. We found a nice spot on the deck, I sat her across from me, and I reminded her again that we were about to eat a hotdog. She even said to me, "Pigeon! Hotdog yummy!" At that moment, I was so exceedingly proud of myself- I made something Sophie had read real for her! I fused her literary world with her real one! I scaffolded her learning with practical examples! I involved her in the various steps of putting together a hotdog! Everything was totally developmentally appropriate! Who's the awesome Mom? I am! I am! I split the hotdog into two, took a long deliberate bite-- "Aaaaaaaaaah"-- just like in the book, declared it a truly exceptional specimen of a hotdog (it was a little salty for my taste but I wasn't about to spoil the moment), gave Sophie her half, and watched expectantly at her mind about to be blown.

She bit into the sausage, made a face, spat out what was in her mouth, and ran away...

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