A finicky guy's exploits in finding gustatory (and other) satisfaction in his kitchen, his neighborhood, and beyond.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Stuffed lambchop: the mother of all comfort foods?

What foods take you back to the happiness and comfort of childhood?

Stuffed Lambchops
There are foods I only have to think of — no actual eating is required — to get a warm sense of that more carefree stage of life when Mom or Grandma or some other loving adult would cook me something nourishing and delicious.  Even though I haven't tasted these foods in decades, I still have fond memories of Pennsylvania Dutch hog maw (pig's stomach stuffed with sausage and vegetables — it's much more appealing than it sounds), Czech poppyseed pastries, and endless batches of my mother's waffles, the first one served with mandatory chicken a la king and then the real reward of as many more as I wanted with molasses, karo, maple syrup, honey, peanut butter, jelly, and all kinds of other sweet toppings.  (Not all at the same time!  Though I have been known for creating rather baroque combinations of ingredients.  For many years during my adolescence I craved a rather over-the-top sandwich of my own invention, made with PB, spun honey, marshmallow fluff, and sliced banana on white bread.  Oh dear, I am craving that again right now.)

All this culinary reminiscing is just a slyly deceptive lead-in to the video of my dog Freddy I've posted below, which has nothing at all to do with food.  But I think you'll find it fascinating.

Stuffed Lambchop
Freddy's first toy was a stuffed Lambchop doll (modeled after Shari Lewis's puppet) that we had up in a closet for years and pulled out on Freddy's first night in our home to give him a warm, cuddly presence in his bed so that he wouldn't miss his littermates too much.   The toy seemed to have the desired effect: Freddy suckled on it and kneaded it with his tiny paws, as though he was still feeding at his mother's teat.

From then on, Freddy has treated this particular toy in a gentle and almost meditative manner completely different from his approach to all his other toys.  When he plays with Baby or Squeaky Devil or Quadripus (who has lost several of his original 8 legs over the past year and is in grave danger of becoming a Triplapus any day now), he'll growl ferociously, shake the living daylights out of them, and eventually, rip them to shreds.  When Lambchop comes out, though, Freddy regresses to a tender stage of early puppyhood.  There is an uncanny transformation that takes place over a period of a minute or so: our assertive, strong-willed adult dog morphs before our eyes into a vulnerable, nursing infant.

It will happen before your eyes, too, as you watch this video:

Isn't that charming, and also a bit weird?  Lambchop seems to have a similar effect on Freddy to that of catnip on cats.  We've never been able to figure out what it is about this toy that elicits this remarkable response — is it the texture, the look, the smell of the thing?  Repeated washings have not diminished Lambchop's mesmerizing potency, but we are concerned that eventually she will just disintegrate into nothing.  Would Freddy accept a replacement if it looked exactly the same?

Let's hope we never have to find out.

Let's also hope that someday we do find the toy that will cause Willy's eyes to glaze over and to put that perpetual motion machine of a dog into a state of contented lethargy.


  1. TOTALLY with you on poppyseed pastries...!

  2. Both of my MIL's dogs do this with different objects. The Boston Terrier does it with this spotted animal (I think its tag said it was a "freak"). Sadly, she tore that to shreds and we bought replacements for it as long as we could (and she continued to act the same with each one), but it's no longer manufactured. She will somewhat act the same with babies that are similar, but she still knows that they're not The One. The American Bull does it with square pillows. If you tell him to calm down (he is quite excitable), he will go to his bed with his pillow and go into the zone like Willy. Lucky for us, a square pillow is easy to find - he's had many replacements over the years and hasn't turned down one of them. :)

  3. thanks, 2pugs. Your information is interesting and gives me some solace that Lambchop may indeed be replaceable!

    @Phyllis: Are you of Czech extraction too, by any chance? I'm not usually one to trumpet ethnic pride, but those Czechs do have a way with poppyseed. Which my Slovak relatives always pronounced as "papa-seed," btw.

  4. Our foxhound, Buddy, has a teenie beanie baby from a Happy Meal that he fixates on. He carries it around with him when stressed(during thunderstorms) and at the end of the day when he's tired. Usually, we find it "hidden" someplace safe, like under the covers of our bed. It's currently resting with him under our granddaughters crib. He destroys other toys, usually within a day or two, but this toy has lasted almost 5 years.

    I hope you are going to explain stuffed lamb chops! They look hopelessly complicated and are not a dish I've ever attempted.

    Apple dumplings and ice cream-homemade or from the Schwanns truck, the ice cream not the dumplings. Everything is good in life when I eat apple dumplings!

  5. My mom also makes killer apple dumplings. They're one childhood comfort food that I still eat — as often as I can! (Hope you're reading, Mom.)

    That pic of the stuffed lambchops I got off the web. It's a bit "fancy" for my tastes, but I thought it was pretty.

    I am radiating smiles thinking about your big ol' hound-dawg with an itsy-bitsy baby held daintily between his teeth.

  6. What? Two posts in one weekend when I wasn't looking? Not fair. ;-)

    Our Jack Russell, Chili, has a "relationship" with a certain teddy bear. He tries to be … er … romantic with it. It's hilarious because the bear is too short for him and he can't get properly positioned, so all he ever accomplishes is grabbing on with front feet and reversing all over the floor or bed or wherever they are. But when he's not in an amorous mood, he will also just suck on its nose, complete with the eye-glazed zoning that your Freddy does. It's only this particular bear, and I've had to re-sew the nose a number of times.

  7. Since you've had experience in this sort of thing, I may reserve the right to mail you Lambchop for first aid should the need arise. I love that you've parlayed your sewing skills into teddy bear surgery.

  8. Darling Freddy video! Our Jo had a long legged bear that he treated the same way, falling asleep with his foot in his mouth. I said "had" as we left the bear at a relatives by mistake. Whoops! Luckily we had another in a different color that he readily accepted. Now we are looking for backups. I'll keep my eyes open for lambchops for you! :)

  9. One of our dogs, Max (he was a rescue) came with a stuffed something that he alternately kills, humps and nurses on. We can understand (sort of 8->) the necrophilia, but with the nursing it has us kind of baffled. Our big dog, Barney has a deep fondness for toys that don`t squeak, he has a cow that moos, a frog that croaks, a pig,a rooster,a duck etc, these are the only toys he doesn't disembowel in seconds, he gets that look on his face that Freddy has in the video when he plays with them. Wouldn't you love to know what they would say about their toys?