The Miasmatron: or, Never feed steak to a dog

I ran out of dog food yesterday.

It happens often, and I am full of ingenious ways to solve the problem. But there was little to help as I gazed desperately round the kitchen, seeking some dog-food substitute as two limpid brown eyes flanked by triangularly expectant ears looked unwaveringly up at me.

The gaze is something akin to mind control, and no-one can stand it for long. Thus, under its insistent influence, my powers of decision-making are impaired.

Which is why my eyes came to rest on the gently casseroling best steak, the very expensive beef which simmered gently in a Β mustard gravy in the slow cooker.

Today I was making a pie: a glorious pie for my mother and father to enjoy as my mother convalesces at home.

I eyed the beef. The dog eyed me. There was a moment of excruciating indecision.

And then I grabbed his bowl and the ladle and scooped in a generous portion. Robbing the sick to feed the insistent, so to speak.

Here in Britain, if you speak to a certain generation – the one born during or just after World War II – Β I dare you to get them talking about wasting food. They will get on their soapbox, whoever they are, and sermonise better than Wesley himself. They can’t bear waste, they tell you accusingly, as if you get your kicks by buying food from the supermarket and throwing them directly onto a food mountain in the back garden so it can decompose gently.

I have a private theory that Churchill’s propaganda hit its mark most of all with the young children of the time, and they are all irrevocably brainwashed.

Howsomever, if any member of that generation knew that Macaulay the dog had had a large bowl of best steak casserole, the sermon would last a week.

I watched guiltily as the dog eyed the steak with undisguised admiration. This is more like it, he emanated. It was a tad hot: he danced a little ballet round his bowl, testing one piece, nibbling another in an ecstasy of anticipation. And much, much later, when he had finished, I have never seen a cleaner bowl.

However, on reflection, I have come to look upon the decision to give the dog best steak as a dud one.

One clear reason to avoid giving steak to dogs.


We have come a long way since Victorian reformist and sewer king, Sir Edwin Chadwick, pronounced that “all smell is a disease.” The theory that ‘bad air’ could spread pestilence existed at least since the ancient Chinese believed their southern mountains harboured air packed with pestilence.

Officials which had offended the state, and members of the criminal fraternity were banished to the miasma of the south in much the same way that Russia exiled people to Siberia.

The poet, Han-Yu, writes of his exile:

“The clouds gather on Ch’in Mountains, I cannot see my home;
….But I know that you will come from afar, to fulfil your set purpose,
And lovingly gather my bones, on the banks of that plague-stricken river.”

Man was utterly convinced that illnesses like cholera travelled by miasma -through bad smells – until a rather clever GP used his bonce.

Dr John Snow served the district in and around Soho when a horrifying outbreak of cholera claimed some 616 people in 1854. Β It shocked London to the core; yet in the midst of all the panic, Snow was talking to patients. And what he learned led him to believe the sufferers all had one thing in common.

The Broadwick Street pump. Everyone got their water from the pump: it was popular because the water tasted better, locals said. Some even ignored nearer pumps and went that extra mile for the flavour.

But the sewer systems had not yet reached Soho and things were rather grim. The public well had been dug just three feet away from a leaky old cesspit: into which the nappies of a baby who had died from cholera had been washed.

Dr Snow vanquished the Bad Air Theory. Cholera, the Black Death, both had another source, he concluded. And while airborne droplets can travel from one human to another through coughing or even laughing, a bad smell holds little fear.

But I’m not convinced.

Because just hours after the dog had feasted on mustard steak, it was bedtime. And the wages of feeding the dog steak were the worst of air. How any small dog can produce so much miasma is beyond scientific reasoning. He was a veritable miasma factory.

And so, like those unfortunate Chinese exiles, I, too, got my come uppance. I have spent the night with the worst of air, and have experienced feeling really quite unwell.

Miasma is alive and well, and residing in the small barrel-tummied miasmatron on the cushion at my feet.


62 thoughts on “The Miasmatron: or, Never feed steak to a dog

  1. You have my sympathies Kate, I know what you went through: silent but deadly. Skye tends to flatulate; a blessing in disguise, as it acts as an early warning system.
    Great post.

  2. It’ll have been the sauce…

    Bleary eyed, I read the title as ‘never give steak to a frog’ and wondered what Big Al had been up to πŸ™‚

  3. You better eat your food, I was in the War you know. I heard that expression too many times. Allergies and vegetarianism never endeared me to my grandmother amongst my other failings, notably being me. Miasma may not be the cause of disease but it definitely still exists. Also described as fug in this house. Try cornflakes next time! πŸ™‚

    1. Ah, it was that pesky good fairy, was it? Sounds like the one in the Mr Gumm books by Andy Stanton who bashes Mr Gumm round the head with a saucepan when he doesn’t keep his garden tidy. I ahve a feeling you would simply adore Mr Gumm, Roger.

      They’re brown…. my appalling photography managed to give Mac not red-eye, but green-eye. Imagine. A whole new world of photographic faux-pas.

  4. well as one of that brainwashed generation I will forebear from a week long lecture:) will even refrain from saying…. ! It is hard to resist such mind control – I have learnt too over the decades and have been fortified by some vet author called Buster Llyod something or other – who am amongst other pearls of wisdom declared it was positivly good for dogs to fast at least 24 hours a week as they prob. would in the wild – I have never myself owned a dog to try this on! I just get to look after other peoples dogs usually when they are old and have the most amazing array of smells to entertain? one with – windows always open!!
    as to wasting food well yes nowadays having discovered we throw more than 60% of the food we buy away I grow concerned at how how long the world thinks this unsustainbilty can last? food security is becoming percarious and will become more so – the war thing was brought about by the uncertainty of food supplies and afterwards the realization that millions were near to starving on the European mainland – it never quite leaves one I’m afraid – there and I said I would lecture:)

    1. πŸ˜€ I rest my case, Alberta. However, giving best steak to a dog is almost beyond the pale, so I consider myself fair game. Your 24-hour fast tip sounds most promising! Thank you!

  5. I just knew it would all end in a pungent aroma!
    I too join the league of not wasting food. It wasn’t that we were brainwashed, there just wasn’t enough to go round, and we were all much thinner!

  6. It seems kind of mean to ‘like’ your post this morning, considering the agony you’ve had to endure! But, I couldn’t help myself — thanks for a good chuckle this morning.

  7. Been there! Mine was accidental. I set a bar of cream cheese on the counter and returned to find it missing. Oh, the air gave it away all right!

  8. Oh dear.. poor you mine eat their meat in the morning! for just that reason.. When I run out of dog food I give them noodles and eggs, they scoff it and no farties!! c

  9. Thanks for the laugh! My dogs create noxious smells far too often for my likingβ€”sometimes I think they do it on purpose, waiting until I am resting on the couch and they slink over to lay beside me. lol.

    1. Hi Fostrickson – thanks for coming over to take a look and comment! I am in complete agreement with you. It’s a conspiracy. And when they are relaxed, they are at their most dangerous…miasma-wise…

  10. Macauley and I have much in common, I’m afraid. I routinely eat things I know do not agree with my stomach, because they taste SO FINE going in. πŸ™‚

    On a slightly related note, I used to buy scraps and such from the butcher for Jazzmine, and we regularly jazzed up her food. Consistent ingestion made for less bother in her stomach. I even gave her a full steak dinner for her last meal. She loved her some People Food.

    1. That’s an interesting idea, Andra: a little, often. Sounds like a great approach. And so glad she got a steak dinner. That little soul was special. She deserved it.

    1. Jim! How thoughtful of you. Until it arrives, I shall nip down to the washing line and fetch one of the ones I use out there. Can’t think why I did not consider it before πŸ˜€

  11. As an alien… I have no issues with not responding to the gaze of a hungry dog. That’s the owners job πŸ˜‰

    Next time he gives you those eyes,give him a bowl of vegetarian chilli – I bet that’ll make the miasma more acceptable!.

  12. When I run out of dog kibble, which come to think of it, I shall before the end of the holiday weekend, I have not one but two pairs of mesmerizing eyes. They take a twofold approach. One silent and weepy from the dogbed, dogging, as it were, your every move, and the other trotting merrily behind, the question clear in his bulbous orbs and the curious tilt of the head.

    I give them rice and scrambled egg.
    Poor fools they, they think it’s spa food.

    1. It must be very difficult indeed to buck a two-fold approach like this one, Cam. Like good cop, bad cop, only more effective. Rice and scrambled egg: perfect. I shall save that idea for the next emergency πŸ™‚

    2. Posted on Dee, I want your dog so badly I am tempted to sneak in and do somnhtieg felonious. What IS he? Where can I GET one? I want one JUST LIKE THAT ONE, crap and all. And that’s love, my friend.

      1. I have a recipe: take one miniature schnauzer, one king charles spaniel, put on some romantic music and give them a plate of spaghetti….etcetera πŸ™‚

  13. Maybe the steak wasn’t at fault. It was possibly the mustard gravy. But no matter the cause, you did the decent and compassionate thing. Macaulay, not so much.

    1. Mustard is a very silly thing to give a dog, granted, Kathy πŸ˜€ It’s asking for trouble. It is as well that dogs do not have moral compasses; he is blissfully aware of his lack of compassion….

  14. In an effort to bring my cat’s thyroid into balance, he’s lolling in the luxury of sharing my boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Besides eating my portion with great gnawing and licking, he’s refusing to recognize that his cat food is, in fact, still the entree! Thank goodness there’s no sign of Miasma!

  15. Morning Kate! Loved this. Miasmatc Mac. Love ‘im. If only he could talk he might have said “Would you mind holding the mustard sauce?” πŸ™‚

  16. that was a mis-steak, wasn’t it Kate?

    BTW next time you shop for dog food get double the quantity and ‘hide’ the second batch – try to almost forget its there, shop as if it isn’t there, so when you next need it, in an emergency – there it is at the back of the garage πŸ™‚

  17. It’s been a long time since I’ve laughed so hard while also learning so much! I learned about the miasma theory…didn’t know that at all, and love the story of Dr. Snow who ended that belief! And when my son’s dog is at our house we have experienced legendary “bad air.” The dog ruined our Thanksgiving dinner last year with his own “bad air” under the dining room table! So I laughed uproariously at poor Macaulay’s unfortunate results from the now infamous steak dinner. Should we be reminding you to buy dog food? πŸ™‚ Debra

  18. Z would love to dine at your place for she is raised as a vegan. If the cupboard is bare, she gets oatmeal and peanut butter… I hope your Mother is doing okay ~

  19. Be sure your sins found you out!

    Though not of the war generation, I have a similar attitude to waste, and food waste in particular. I learned mine in South Africa, watching starving men trawl my bins for mouldy food. We don’t know how lucky we are, and how close we are to not being lucky.

  20. Reminds me of a family ‘do’ that I went to a few years ago at which there was a terrible smell emanating from the doberman…. I hate to think what it’d been nibbling, probably fish….

    Yep, I know the post and wartime ‘don’t waste food’ ethic. However, if your little dog had been something big and fierce that could have taken a bite out of the enemy, I expect allowances would have been made! πŸ˜‰

  21. Bwhahahahaha – ‘miasmatron’! Your writing is full of little gems, almost half hidden but still very shiny. A bad dog fart is one of the world’s worst things and best avoided at all costs.

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