One snowy, frigid day this past winter, in Feeding Things, I wrote about how the birds at my bird feeder were complaining about the milo, millet, cracked seed with oil sunflower seed food that I had given them, squawking that they only liked plain oil sunflower seed. Ingrates, I called them. Who were they to turn up their beaks at my offering in those difficult days when food was scarce?
Still, I relented. I donned my boots and gloves, precariously positioned the ladder and refilled the feeder with only the plain oil sunflower seed. I should have insisted that they at least try it, which is what you must do with young children who are refusing their vegetables, but instead I chose to view them as lovely guests and extended my hospitality without arguing.
Recently though, the bag of the plain oil sunflower seed was running low, so I decided to blend the milo mix in, kind of like disguising vegetables in sauces for those picky types. For the first few days, the feeder sat sadly unattended. It seemed that my fine feathered friends were not amused by my ruse. Now, however, the temperature was hovering near 100 degrees. Even the mere thought of lugging the ladder back out in the heat was too draining, so I ignored the situation.
A few days later, I did see a bird or two come by, but they did not linger. Imagine then my surprise when the next day, I returned home to find the feeder entirely empty. I thought maybe a non-discriminating crow had discovered and devoured the contents or that some other fluke-like occurrence explained the disappearance of the food–so I took the effort to refill the feeder with my carefully proportioned blend once again. Sure enough, this time I saw the birds actively feeding, and the food was once more quickly gone.
In avian fashion, I puffed out my breast and congratulated myself on my nutritional success–even if it was just for the birds. Unfortunately, my contentment at establishing peace and harmony in the eating world was to be short-lived.
Before my own feathers had even neatly realigned themselves, I came out onto the porch to find teal nibblets of plastic scattered all about. A squirrel had managed to eat its way through the bin that I keep the bird feed in and had feasted with abandon. Scoundrel. This was not the first time I have been one-upped by the squirrel squad. In the past, they have actually chewed their way into my house and unearthed stashes of chocolate.
While I was still contemplating the mess on the porch, Chico, the cat, was meowing fiercely. He was displeased with my decision to only offer him wet food in the evening. Without even leaving home, I was reminded again of the perplexities and complexities of species feeding. What awaited me when I next headed out into the world of humans would only add to the story.
Over the course of the next few days, I had a few experiences that deepened my ponderings. Firstly, I came face to lips with a caffeinated water marketed locally called element. Apparently, its 50 mg of caffeine per 17 oz bottle–equivalent to a Coca Cola–sets one aloft, focused and refined at any time of day without sugars and chemicals. It is not the first caffeinated water on the market, but the newest; and the latest that has me contemplating the consequences of its extending reach. Though I am sensitive to caffeine and thus avoid it, I did take a few sips. Given its propensity for flight, I thought it might be relevant to my work in bird nutrition.
I then had a mind-blowing moment in a nearby new frozen yogurt establishment. I had observed that this place was frequently “spilling onto to the sidewalk” mobbed and sane people I knew were screaming its praises. With out-of-town guests in tow, I ventured in to meet my newest nutritional nemesis.
This was not your grandpa’s frozen yogurt shoppe. With its electric pink walls, I felt like I was in a bar scene from Star Wars. The aliens around me all seemed to think it was quite ordinary to find lightly sweetened tapioca pearls floating in their shaken Bubble Tea with royal creations named Purple Oreo, Yellow Cupcake, Marshmallow Puff, and Chocolate Stout. Likewise, they seemed confident, sensuously dispensing their own yogurt and slathering it with a myriad of toppings, some of which I had never seen before–such as little roe-like jelly balls filled with various flavors which pop in one’s mouth. Here, the seduction of food had been elevated to an even higher level. It was jaw-dropping, or should I say jaw filling, to say the least–and not cheap.
Bubbled up, I stumbled back to the mothership. There, in a cramped coffee shop, on the inaugural day of World Breastfeeding Week, I watched a woman struggle to fit some contraption around her shoulders so that she could nurse her baby. Nothing seems straightforward or simple anymore–even the feeding of our young.
So, as I observed in Feeding Things, this is complicated stuff. I can’t even guess what the food world will look like by the time that little nursing baby comes of age or even starts school. Will the challenges for eaters become easier or more difficult? Will we be assisted in working better with our inherited biology or led further away? What do you think?
But, what about the newt, Everest, you ask? He’s still working his way through the same little containers of flakes and pellets.
In health, Elyn
This week, August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week. World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year in more than 170 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration made by WHO and UNICEF policy-makers in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. Pass the word along.
Haiku: Blueberry bushes/Three children with empty pails/Pluck, pluck, crunch. Exhale.