My Mother’s Day: The Girls

With Mother’s Day coming up, you don’t mind if I share about my dog children, do you? I am, after all, their devoted mom.

My first canine child, Bella, a Portuguese water dog, has been featured in two of my cookbooks, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen and The Longevity Kitchen.  Her favorite food was carrots. In fact, she was the only dog in my experience who preferred carrots to bacon. For every carrot that went into a pot, one went into her mouth. She was very chatty. Whether I was chopping a vegetable or an animal protein, she would be vocalizing. No manners whatsoever when it came to trying to get food out of me!

For her, It was all about food. She somehow ascertained that I cooked for a living and stubbornly boycotted even the best dog food. I found myself making all of her food from scratch. What can I say—we bonded in the kitchen!

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I got her as a puppy in 2004 and had her trained as a cancer scent dog. Have you heard of this? Dogs noses have 300 million sensors compared to the mere 5 million humans have. Studies show that specially trained and talented dogs can potentially sniff out cancers with a remarkable degree of accuracy, as much as 90 to 95%. (No, we don’t really know why.) Bella was an all star. She’d go down the line, sniff, and sit right in front of the bowl that in fact had the cancer scent, as she’d been trained. But after doing that over and over, she got bored! She ended up getting fired for her lack of work ethic.

In my kitchen, she was a highly enthusiastic, vocal companion. She eventually fell in love with sweet potatoes along with carrots, and was known to rack up some serious hang time when leaping to catch the bits of carrot or sweet potato thrown her way.

We brought Lola, her niece, into the picture when Bella was 8. Lola prefered kale, but also displayed an unfortunate affinity for chocolate—not the best thing for dogs! When we were working on recipes for The Healthy Mind Cookbook, my dear friend and recipe tester Catherine McConkie brought over eight chocolate chip cookies double-wrapped in parchment with an outer layer of aluminum foil. She left them on the counter while we stepped out of the kitchen for a couple minutes. We returned to find Lola had jumped up on the counter like a mountain goat and eaten every single one! They were mostly almond butter, with cacao nibs. The vet said it didn’t sound like enough chocolate to harm her, but that we should keep an eye on her.

We certainly did!

Lola is not a talker, but she has a tendency to sit in front of the stove at the exact same time that I need to be there, sauteing. At first I used to dance around her. Then I realized, wait a minute! She’s standing in front of MY stove! She has another station she goes to now, across the kitchen, where she can watch me. She sits very quietly, in Sphinx pose, exerting a very calming influence on my kitchen adventures. Bacon IS her favorite food. She gets bacon jerky treats.

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When Bella passed away, we brought in Blossom. 3 years younger than Lola, which proved the perfect age difference. They get along so well it’s almost uncanny. They just go together, like salt and pepper. They’ve worked out a system. Lola gets dibs on all food, all the time. Blossom gets dibs on all toys, all the time. When it comes to food, Blossom defers to Lola. She’s not a food incentified puppy, she’s a garden dog. She lives up to her name. She walks the perimeter of the garden every morning like clockwork. She’s doing it now, as I write. Sniffing every little flower.

This is Blossom’s time of year. Spring! She’s in her garden element. We just planted some herbs together. She carefully supervised that project: mint, parsley. When I’m cooking and I step out to my herb boxes, Blossom always follows me. No matter where she is in the house, she hears that particular door open and she’s right there. That’s her job.

She has yet to have a recipe named after her, since she arrived when I was just finishing my 5th cookbook, Clean Soups. But there are recipes named for the other girls: a carrot soup and sweet potato salad for Bella, and, of course, chocolate chip cookies for Lola. (See below.)

 Our girls! We had Lola and Blossom’s portrait painted by   the wonderful California artist Andrew Faulkner.

Our girls! We had Lola and Blossom’s portrait painted by the wonderful California artist Andrew Faulkner.

The Girl’s Recipes

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A serendipitous variation on my always popular Carrot Ginger Soup, created when I didn’t have...ginger. It turned out, fennel made a very elegant substitute with a uniquely appealing and memorable flavor all its own. Named after my girl. :)

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Seriously, Air Bud’s got nothing on Bella, who jumps high when I toss her a bit of sweet potato. Maybe she heard about how healthful sweet potatoes are: their natural sweetness is perfectly balanced with high fiber content, slowing the rush of sugar into the bloodstream, which is great for the vascular system, and for mood. My experience says that’s true; whenever I make this salad, Bella’s awfully happy.

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I asked my editor if I could get away with a two-word headnote for this: “Eat these!!” But she said, “No, Rebecca. You need to say more.” Sigh. How about “Eat these now!” That’s what my dog Lola did. We left them on the kitchen table, wrapped in layers of parchment and foil. Lola didn’t care. Her doggy delight senses shorted out her inhibition system (such as it is), and when we returned to the kitchen, she had jumped up on the table like a mountain goat and absconded with eight cookies. Fortunately, the chocolate content was low enough, and Lola big enough, that the vet said she’d be fine and she was. These are flourless, a blend of almond butter, egg, vanilla, cocoa nibs, and chocolate chips. The chocolate is guaranteed to elevate your mood. It sure elevated Lola’s!

DO YOU HAVE A CANINE ASSISTANT IN THE KITCHEN? OR A CAT OR A PARAKEET? IT’S LIKELY WE CAN AGREE ABOUT WHAT GOOD COMPANY THEY ARE. BELLA WAS THE COMMENTATOR. LOLA IS CALMING. AND I’M THEIR LUCKY CHEF-MOM. :)