Toby was my first pet, if you don't count the occasional goldfish. I found him on Petfinder.com from this photo:
I could talk about the kind of dog Toby was, but as this is a food blog I feel that it's most appropriate to do this by telling you what he liked to eat.
It might be easier to numerate the things he didn't find appetizing. Toby was a stray, so he always behaved like each meal was unexpected - scarfing down his dog food in big gulps, barely breathing or chewing.
Just like a Iaciofano.
When I walked Toby, I would have to scan the streets for anything remotely edible, lest he injest something really unsavory. Sometimes I want to follow The Box around in this manner, shaking a finger and exclaiming, "Ah-ah!" just as some questionable morsel is about to cross his lips.
In spite of Toby's penchant for "street food", he was a dog of some refined tastes. His favorite by far were French fries. He once turned up his nose at a batch of imposter toaster fries. He wanted the real thing.
Perhaps because of this food preference, I started referring to Toby as, "M. Pamplemousse," and speaking for him in an atrocious French accent. "M. Pamplemousse" means "Mr. Grapefruit." It's the only French word I know. Interestingly, I never investigated as to whether or not Toby actually liked grapefruits.
Another favorite were apples. He especially enjoyed these in his later days, taking slices gingerly from my hand and trotting off to eat them in a private corner of the Iaciofano TV room.
Blueberries were another fruity preference. A week before he died, I baked him a special batch of tiny blueberry muffins which he very much enjoyed (recipe at the end of this post).
He liked to lick an empty ice cream bowl (who doesn't?), always received his own small portion of Iaciofano family holiday dinners,
developed a taste for Italian cured sausage and provolone cheese (thanks to The Box), and once tried to launch himself on a candy-apple Thanksgiving turkey that I made for Thanksgiving.
Toby and I were together for 14 of his 16 years. Even though he was 16 and his kidneys were declining, I never expected him to leave me. To say that I miss him very much is an understatement. I miss not only the actual dog that Toby was — his energy, quirky personality, piercing PTSD-inducing bark — but also what he represented: a companion that embodied a childlike playfulness and enthusiasm for the world.
I've taken this last piece of Toby and translated it into a character. His name is:
Pecorino is the ultimate trusty sidekick for my own character:
Zaza is a ten year old version of myself. Together, Pecorino and Zaza travel the world, searching for the Perfect Pie.
Pizza, that is.
I'm hoping the two of them will have many adventures together, small dog and little girl, ever curious and looking to paint a little magic into their lives with pizza.
I'm also hoping you'll be able to follow their adventures very soon.
Rest in peace, Toby.
Recipe for Mini Blueberry Muffins, Suitable for Small Dogs and All-Sized People
1-1/2 cups almond meal
½ cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
3/4 cups turbinado sugar
1 pint blueberries
½ cup almond milk (you may need more)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used Colavita)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat your oven to 350°F.
Place the blueberries in a blender with the almond milk and puree until very smooth - so smooth you could drink it. I reserved a few blueberries to press into the tops of the muffins, but this is optional.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and turbinado sugar. Mix all dry ingredients together.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, olive oil and vanilla extract.
Add the puréed blueberries to the egg mixture and mix to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the mixing bowl with all of the dry ingredients and stir until combined. If the mixture seems dry, add some more almond milk. Coconut flour tends to absorb a lot of liquid, so adding more milk is totally fine.
Prepare a cupcake tin by lining with cupcake paper or greasing with non-stick baking spray.
Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake tins and press any remaining blueberries into the tops of the muffins.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. If you are using mini muffin tins, you only need to bake them for about 12-15 minutes.
Allow the cupcakes to cool.
Share them with a small dog near you.