I often have thinky thoughts about my beloved show, but rarely commit them to paper.... or the interwebs as it were. But after recently spending some time with Dean and his eating habits
I made some observations and in fact realised that I had some set ideas why Dean eats the way he does.
One major observation is the way Dean "snags" food. If food is around he's in there, pinching it when he can. He's an opportunist when it comes to getting food: I particularly like that Dean sees the opportunity for food even when he has a collapsed Bela in his arms.
We only have a few examples of Dean with food as a child, but I believe it's no mistake that whenever we get flashbacks of the wee!chesters food is involved:
In both cases Dean is feeding Sam. And in the Something Wicked flashback it shows Dean sacrificing his share of food for Sam:
Sam: I’m sick of Spagettios
Dean: Well, you’re the one who wanted them
Sam: I want Lucky Charms
Dean: There’s no more Lucky Charms
Sam: I saw the box
Dean: Ok. So maybe there is. But there’s only enough for one bowl and I haven’t had any yet.
Sam: PUPPY EYES OF DOOM!
Dean: Caves in and gives Sam the last bowl and Dean misses out. (Big!Bro awesomeness!)
Interestingly, there are also examples of Dean offering food to Sam in their adult life:
I get the impression that Dean probably went hungry during some of his childhood. I can't say much
of his childhood (though I would like to), because we have no canon evidence of that but the chances are very high that Dean was not always satisfied when it came to eating.
He probably learned early on that if he needed/wanted food he may have had to either steal it or look for opportunities where he can "snag" if for free.
Sam, on the other hand, probably never went quite as hungry as Dean. Simply because Dean made sure of it. If Dean ever snagged food as a child (which I imagine he often did), then he would offer it to Sam first before he had any. And we see evidence of this when he offers food to Sam as an adult. That's not to say Sam never experienced hunger, but he may have relied on Dean to find food for him so never learned to seek it out the way Dean does.
The other thing that struck me, even more than Dean's snagging habit, is how content and easily satisfied Dean is when he is eating.
Again it's no accident that during one of my fav episodes "What is and What Should Never Be", there is a wonderful scene of Dean devouring a homemade sandwich. This is Dean's idea of heaven. Real food. Made by a real mother. With real love.
I often wonder if he links never going hungry with his memories of having a mother. (?)
Food as comfort is a psychological given in our lives. And for Dean, I believe, it's one of his true (and few) comforts in life. It may be linked to the connection he has with his life with a mother who never let him go hungry or days of being hungry and then the satisfaction that follows from being full and satisfied.
In many ways food is an easy comfort to Dean. Easier than family, easier than women, easier than the satisfaction of a hunt even. Sure, it might mean snagging it every now and then but for Dean I suspect there's a certain amount of satisfaction even in that.
Of course, Dean is not always satisfied by the food in front of him. One stand out example is in Simon Said when he eats his hamburger distainfully. You can see his longly for "real", honest to God homemade food. He's sick of having to eat take away food all the time.
And for me that's the crunch. (damn if that isn't a pun!) He learned to love food because it was scare in his childhood. He'll snag it when he can - particularly the "good stuff". But at the end of the day he's a simple man who would love nothing more than to sit down to a good old fashioned home cooked meal. And if it was made with love.... even better! (Sam, have you cooked Dean a meal lately?)And now because I couldn't help myself...