Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Four-Year-Old Epicurean

This evening I caught a glimpse into the mind of a four-year-old Epicurean.

Henry had asked his father to put mustard and relish on his hot dog bun, “and ketchup, of course,” he said.

His mother cautioned him about the relish since he’d not had relish on his prior hot dog experiences. But Henry insisted.

After a few bites, however, Henry decided that the relish was not to his liking, so the relish was scraped off the hot dog and out of the bun.

About half way through the thus altered hot dog and bun, Henry began hoping for a reprieve of some kind. But his parents were not persuaded. They expected him to finish his hot dog before he could have chips or watermelon.

As his Grammie, I felt sympathy for the little guy’s chore of choking down that bun slathered with ketchup, mustard, and relish juice. I hoped that I might revive his interest in finishing his hot dog by announcing that we would be having homemade banana cream pie for dessert.

I began to cut the pie into pieces and to top each piece with an overly generous dollop of Cool Whip.

The first piece went to the grandpa who inhaled his piece in a flash. The next two pieces went to Ben and Emily. Then Audrey was ready for hers. Audrey’s pie was half the size of the adult serving, but it nevertheless had a scoop of Cool Whip that more than equaled the size of her pie slice.

Henry was still struggling with his hot dog and bun. Suddenly the hot dog squirted out of the bun and landed on the seat of his chair. The bun and hot dog were reunited, and Henry’s task continued.

In spite of his hot dog struggles, Henry was monitoring the dispersal of each banana cream pie slice topped with a magnificent cloud of Cool Whip. Last of all, I dished up Henry’s slice of pie. It was like Audrey’s, with a towering billow of Cool Whip perched atop the pie, and I set it on the table just out of his arm’s reach.

At that point, Henry stuffed the remains of his hot dog and bun into his mouth. His mouth was so full, I was sure that it would impossible to chew and that he would choke. 

Amazingly, at last he triumphed. His eyes sparkled as he was given his pie, and he began to dip the tip of his fork into the cloud of Cool Whip and savor the taste. Dip. Taste. Dip. Taste.

Then, suddenly Henry let out a horrified howl: the cloud of Cool Whip had toppled off his pie onto the side of the plate. Grief overwhelmed the little guy who cried, “It’s RUINED!” More howls.

Emily, as any good Mommy would do, quickly scooped the Cool Whip back atop the pie, and spread it around so that it would not fall off again. “There!” she said, expecting a return of happiness and calm.

Henry’s grief and howls and protests only increased. “It’s RUINED! I never want this to happen again in my whole life!”

It was a moment of such drama as I had not seen in some time. I couldn’t help but laugh.

But I understood:

Henry had been given a “perfect” piece of pie with an astonishing, fantasy-fulfilling mound of Cool Whip on top. He had envisioned himself savoring each bite. He had imagined extending his pie experience for as long as possible. Maybe forever. He had contemplated the perfect and most memorable way to eat his pie: it would be a memory to last a life time.

Then, tragically, it was all ruined.


It’s hard being four.