It's an optical spectacle to watch my Little Rib eat. When she chews on a sandwich you can be assured that afterwards there will be bits and pieces dangling from her earlobes. Even the smallest snack ends up in a huge mess. After every meal it looks like some living thing exploded in our apartment.
It gets dangerous when it comes to food that crumbles, sticks, drips, stains or is so flexible that it can be stretched over a length of more than two feet. You never know where that food might turn up later. The other night we had pasta for dinner and I found a splotch of sauce on the mouse of my computer before dinner was ready. »Well, I have to taste it to make sure it's seasoned right, don't I?« was my Little Rib's excuse.
In her eyes I am the one with strange eating habits. It's mind-boggling to her how I manage to eat a sandwich without smearing mayonnaise all over my cheeks. She is able to do that in one single bite. I have demonstrated to her how to bite into a sandwich properly but she thinks it's too much work: »I want to enjoy my food without having to concentrate.« How can you argue with that?
Remember the Carl's Jr. commercials? Dennis Rodman messing up half an acre with a burger the size of my pillow. If it doesn't get all over the place, it doesn't belong in your face! Right ... My Little Rib is not allowed to get food from there.
There are certain things that even I stay away from: Ham. Germans love to serve bread with ham at Birthday parties and other festivities. My teeth are too dull to bite through a slice of ham. Without exceptions I always pull the whole piece off the bread. I don't need to explain how stupid it looks when the slice of ham slaps against the idiot's Adam's apple.
Eating in the presence of our friends has always been a big problem. After all, we don't want to make a bad impression. Therefore I had to come up with a few techniques as some sort of damage control for my Little Rib. For example, a friendly smack on the back can transport a piece of potato from the shoulder back on the plate. You have to hit a little harder to get the same result with mashed potatoes.
Appetizers such as soups or salads with loads of dressing must be taken away from my Little Rib. Believe me, you don't want to know why. Consequently I eat as quickly as I can and – asking her in simulated disbelief »Full already, Schnuckie?« – trade plates with her when I'm done. Unfair ... but necessary.
With the scissors of my pocketknife I cut spaghetti, which are (hopefully) en route to her mouth, lightning fast and invisible for the human eye down to a safer size. I've accidentally cut my cute little ninja-muncher in the past, but she never knew where the attacks were coming from.
Sometimes I knock over my wine glass to give her enough time to clean her forehead or her cleavage without attracting attention. I carry wet tissues with me at all times for exactly those circumstances. They are intended for a particular and ch-ch-ch-charmin' part of the body but, hey, they clean the face just as well.
This all works pretty well, but sometimes when my Little Rib bares her teeth with an aggressive growl, I know that she wants to enjoy her meal and she will do so no matter what happens. In that case I have no choice but to stay back, occasionally leaning forward to give her a kiss on the cheek (in reality I lick the leftovers off her face, of course), or I excuse myself for a moment to pick up the biggest chunks off the floor on my way to the bathroom.
If all things fail and my Little Rib's battle with her food starts to affect the hosts in harmful ways, I resort to the trick of a clever change of topic in the ongoing conversation: »Have I told you about my latest short-story?« This immediately causes everybody to lower their heads and whisper desperate prayers. Once they find the strength to look up again we're long gone.