15

Moths are More than Just Good Eating

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As you know, we at Cheeseland pride ourselves as being pan-species. We recently received an email questioning that inclusivity. It read as follows:

“We are tired of being the subject of cat jokes about how much fun we are to chase and how good we tastes. Moths have feelings too. We have never seen anything in this space about insects of any type, spiders, worms, or anything of that nature. We would like you to rectify that situation.”

The email caught us by surprise. He was right; we had never written about that type of thing. Being a mammalian type of place, Cheeseland had never considered our six-legged neighbors. So we decided to set up an interview.

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We ran into a problem right away. The author of the email lived across the country. Apparently moths (and most insects) are unable to get Skype or other video communication tools. Something about a ban against “bugs” that gets lost in translation. They’ve had trouble convincing the companies that they are actual bugs, not software glitches. The short lifespan has its issues as well.

It seemed silly to travel that far to interview one moth when there are lots of them here. One night, we sent a couple of staffers to the park to find a moth or two to speak with. Unfortunately we had not thought the issue through, and our subjects were eaten before we had the interview.

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The next night, we invited a couple of moths to our office and put them in a cage to keep them safe. Apparently moths have short attention spans. They kept heading for the lights in the midst of answering questions. It wasn’t much of an interview, but here’s what we got.

Cheeseland: So, tell us about yourselves.

Moth: (silence)

Cheeseland: Don’t be shy.

We look more closely. These moths don’t have mouths! How are we supposed to interview them?

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Cheeseland: Can you move a wing if the answer is ‘yes’?

Moth dips one wing.

Cheeseland: Do you only come out at night?

Moth dips his wing.

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Cheeseland: It says here that moths live about five weeks, is that true?

No answer.

Cheeseland: Don’t know what a week is?

Moth dips his wing.

Cheeseland: So you pretty much fly around all night and that’s your life?

Moth dips his wing.

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Cheeseland: Are there a lot of you?

Moth dips his wing.

Cheeseland: Do they all look like you?

No answer.

Cheeseland: So there are lots of different types of moths?

Moth dips his wing.

Cheeseland: Do you have a girlfriend?

Moth dips his wing.

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Cheeseland: Any children?

Moth dips his wing.

Cheeseland: Congratulations. That’s wonderful.

We look at each other, unable to think of any more questions that might be answered with yes or no.

Cheeseland: It has been very nice speaking, or whatever, with you moths. We wish you well.

Moth dips his wing. We let them out of the cage. Before they got more than a few feet, there was a “pounce” sound. Then crunching. It didn’t end well for our guests.

After the interview, we had a group video-conference and came to a decision. Cheeseland is not the place for insects. They are just too tasty.

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All pictures courtesy of Google Images

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11

Cats: Enjoy Your Bugs Responsibly This Summer

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Every cat knows that summer is the time to enjoy bug hunting. Whether you chase the occasional fly that manages to get into the house or go on hunting sprees in the great outdoors, we have some tips to share.

Humans do not enjoy bugs the same way we do. If you bring a nice, crunchy moth over to share with your human, you will probably be disappointed. The response will be something along the lines of “Very nice, kitty. Please take your moth somewhere else to eat it.” Or “Take that disgusting thing away from me.” They will not even taste it.

Note: Do not eat Tiger Moths or caterpillars. They might make you sick.

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Some bugs look better than they taste. We have something around here that the humans call a “stink bug” It looks a little like a really big tick. They fly around like other bugs. But when you start to eat them, they taste awful, like they’re way past their “eat-by” date.

Some bugs should not be eaten at all. You know those annoying bugs that fly around at night with their own lights? The humans call them “fireflies”. They’re almost impossible to catch and it’s a good thing. That’s not really fire in their rears; it’s poison.

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Note: It is considered poor etiquette to catch one and offer it to a dog. Many dogs will eat anything.

Then there are those nasty things that sting. The humans call them “bees, hornets, and wasps.” Although they are usually just a pain in the nose or paw; they can kill some cats. They are poisonous to those cats and can cause them to stop breathing. That is never a good thing.

There is also something called a “fire ant.” You can probably step on one and be OK. But they can also cause some cats to stop breathing. And being stung by a bunch of them will do the same thing to any of us.

Note: We recommend you stay away from anything the humans call “fire”. Except, of course, that toasty thing they have inside during the winter. Sleeping in front of that is a cat’s right. The human’s job is to keep it safe and keep it burning.

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Spiders are not insects, no matter what the humans say. Spiders are usually a lot more fun to play with. For one thing, they are usually within paw’s reach. And they move in a lot of directions to get away. You can play for a long time if you’re not too rough. (More like mice that way.)

Of course, there are a few to avoid. The humans like to give them human-type names: “black widow” or “brown recluse”. Generally speaking, humans will have an “ick”-type reaction to the fun, tasty spiders. They are more likely to go with an “eek”-type response to a poisonous one. Even humans who tolerate the regular ones will usually try to kill these. Self-preservation and all that.

Note: We live in Michigan and have a temperate climate. The cold keeps away most nasty spiders. If you live in a hot tropical place, make sure you know the locals. If you live in Australia, we recommend you not eat anything with 8 legs until you talk to an elderly cat (who has probably seen some unfortunate victims). Particularly if the spider is bigger than you are.

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Bug Hunting on a First Date. If you want to take a fellow feline on a bug-hunting trip, make sure they like to hunt in your style. Unfortunately, there are many instances of a run-and-play cat being partnered with a stalk-and-kill cat. There is little hope for the relationship.

Hunting as a Team. Usually bugs are small. So it is unrealistic to think that you will share the kill. However, it is polite to take turns bringing down the prey and eating it. If you catch something you don’t like, by all means offer it to your partner. You may both try for the next bug.

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If you are inside, watch for wall and tripping/falling hazards. If you are chasing a bug and fall off a table or run into a wall, you can be sure your human will be watching, laughing, and pointing a camera at you. Then they will show the video to all of their friends who will also laugh at you. In this situation, it is appropriate to make your next bug-hunting trip in their bedroom, in the middle of the night. Make a video. Send it to your friends.

Enjoy your summer. And Happy Hunting!

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(photos courtesy of Google Images)

13

Bats in the Belfry (and Elsewhere)

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Being just a couple of days before Halloween, we thought this would be a good time to get to know a little more about that much-maligned symbol of the dark, the bat.

Our initial plan was to interview a few at their annual Bats are Misunderstood Mammals (BAMM) convention, but some of the members were afraid that outsiders couldn’t be trusted to not give away their location. Apparently our multi-species orientation was not enough reassurance.

So we had to speak with them via Skype (no picture). Here’s what we found out:

Cheeseland: So why all the secrecy? This is your big season.

BAAM: You have got to be kidding. We hate Halloween. All it does is popularize the stereotype about bats. We are not scary animals that swoop down in the night to scare people.

 

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CL: Umm. Actually we have seen some bats come down after us.

BAAM: Sorry, our bad. Some of you guys are lizards and birds, aren’t you?

 

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(uncomfortable silence)

CL: OK, enough of that. Tell us about your good deeds.

BAAM: Well, we eat lots and lots of insects. You guys don’t have insects on staff, do you?

CL: Let’s keep moving.

BAAM (nervously): It’s mainly mosquitoes, everyone hates mosquitoes don’t they?

(silence)

BAAM: Nectar! We love nectar! We have a huge role in pollination. In fact, the majority of our species eats nectar and fruit.

 

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CL: Really? That’s very interesting. And where do you live?

BAAM (relaxing a little): Oh we live pretty much everywhere, except where it’s really cold. We like relatively enclosed spaces. Since we sleep during the day, we prefer to keep out of the sun.

CL: It seems like a lot of you can live in a small space.

BAAM: Actually, yes. Our bodies are quite small, and we wrap our wings tightly around us.

 

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CL: Does that cause any problems?

BAAM: It causes one of the huge misconceptions about bats. When it gets dark, we want to get outside to  eat. So we all try to rush through the same openings. Sometimes it looks like we’re coming out as a horde to cause trouble.

CL: And some bats probably have fly lower than others which is what looks like swooping.

 

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BAAM: Exactly!

CL: We’re out of time here. We’d like to thank you for sharing your time with us.

BAAM: Thank you for having us.

(Before the connection breaks, we hear a loud bat voice: How many times do I need to tell you? Never do an interview with one of those liberal animal groups! They always make us look bad.)

 

 Image result for happy bats

 

(all pictures courtesy of Google Images)

5

Cat Forum: The Toys of Summer

Moderator: Welcome back fellow mammals. Today we are once again joined by Super Snooper (SS) and Kommando Kitty (KK) to discuss a subject near to every cat’s heart: cat toys.

KK: Thank you for having us here today. I would just like to clarify today’s discussion will involve several matters related to summer, not just toys.

Moderator: But the focus will be on toys.

SS: Actually, that will be the first topic of several. We would also like to talk about vacations and grooming.

Moderator: My script says that we are going to talk about toys. So let’s get started. How are summer toys different from winter toys?

SS: They are a lot more active.

KK: And easier to catch. Those mice are fun, but they have too many places to hide. (Aside to SS: It would be easier if Mom cleaned more often. SS nods.)

Moderator: Could you be a little more specific?

KK: I think you know we live in an old farm house. It’s really cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Dad says that’s because we have old windows downstairs.

SS: He keeps saying he should fix them, but we really don’t want him to. You should see all the cool toys that fly and crawl in during the summer.

Moderator: You mean you have insects as toys in the summer? (grimaces)

KK: What’s wrong with that? You wouldn’t want them flying all over your house would you? Besides you’re the one who wanted to talk about toys.

Moderator: (knows he’s beaten) So what type of insects are we talking about?

SS: Well, the best are moths. They fly around enough so we get a lot of exercise chasing them.

KK: And they taste good. Nice and crunchy.

SS: Junebugs aren’t bad, but they’re a little slow.

KK: The humans seem to find them disgusting. If they see one, they get rid of it before we get to play much.

SS: Spiders aren’t any good. They’re not poisonous around here, but they spent a lot of time just sitting there.

KK: Flies are good. They’re really fast.

Moderator: So what do you do when you don’t have any bugs around?

KK: We sleep a lot.

SS: He means for entertainment.

KK: I sleep for entertainment.

SS: We watch a lot of Cat TV. The birds and squirrels are fun. And the little chipmunks run around a lot. We don’t go out, and mom won’t let them in the house, so we have to watch.

KK: There are big, humungous rodents out there too. We saw them on human TV at the beginning of February, but they’re on Cat TV every day. Mostly they wander around and eat. But they run really fast sometimes too.

SS: I don’t want to play with them. They have big teeth.

Moderator: Anything else?

SS: Well, since you asked. The humans are talking about leaving us alone for a week with someone coming to visit daily. What are we supposed to do without the humans to entertain us?

KK: I hear there are places where we can go for vacation too.

SS: Yeah, great. I was in a place like that before the humans adopted me. They’re full of big, smelly, noisy dogs.

KK: We could go with them.

SS: They could stay here.

Moderator: Well, enough of that. I think it’s time…..

SS: One more thing – I don’t want Mom to brush me all the time.

KK: But it feels good. And makes you shiny and smooth.

SS: I like my fur just the way it is, thank you very much.

Moderator: Before we close, I think you two have a big announcement to make.

SS: That’s right. Big changes are coming to the blog. We’ll still be around, but we’ll have more friends. More animals, fewer humans. Whispers: I don’t think the Moderator’s contract has been renewed.

KK: Mom’s even looking for a new theme. She’s says there doesn’t seem to be a lot to choose from for our type of blog. (Don’t worry. She’ll be around too.)

SS: So come back next time, and we’ll tell you all about it.

Snoops and Kommando Sleeping

2

Attention Velveetistas!

At work, we have been getting callers anxiously wondering whether we still have any Velveeta left. As you may be aware, Kraft is warning that there have been production problems which may create a shortage of the pseudo-cheese affecting Super Bowl parties. No problem, you think, I’ll switch to guacamole. Wrong. Avocado shortage due to drought in California. Maybe I’ll go retro with a fondue theme. Wrong again. Cacao bean shortage due to poor growing conditions in Africa. It’s starting to sound like a crisis.

My first instinct was to send you to Facebook. You may not be aware, but you can “friend” Velveeta. It has thousands of “friends”, and I am sure that some chat group has addressed the possibility of a Velveeta-free Super Bowl party. They might also point out that there is something called Queso Blanco Velveeta. You might consider making your queso dip out of Queso Velveeta which does not enjoy the popularity of “real” Velveeta and is still plentiful.

However, I have a better idea. Why don’t you use the opportunity to try out something really unique? I have done a little rooting around and come up with some foods that should make your party the talk of the water-cooler (or ER) for days. I’m not really sure where to get some of this stuff, although I would guess that most of it can be found for sale on the Internet. I found the foods at BootsnAll.com, a travel site. It’s too late to make most of them at home, so try a sampler before you plan for next year. And don’t forget the beer. Lots and lots of beer.

We can start with the insects. We all have bugs flying around. Why not make them useful? In Southeast Asia, you can get silkworms, grasshoppers or water bugs fried, roasted or toasted. Since it’s been so cold and snowy this winter, I would recommend ordering out, but you can probably go to the pet-food store and have a do-it-yourself kind of thing during halftime.

Staying in the Far East, you may want to try the Cambodian treat of deep-fried tarantula. You need to keep them in the deep-fryer until the legs are stiff. You may season them however you wish. Although obviously you cannot dip them in Velveeta this year. You probably stand the best chance of getting fresh tarantula in the Southwest this time of year. Do not use your room-mate’s pet.

Korea is the home of the next dish. Sannakji is made by chopping a live baby octopus into several pieces, seasoning it with sesame seeds and oil, and serving it immediately. If prepared and presented correctly, the parts will still be wriggling on the plate. This dish is properly served with chopsticks. The suction cups on the tentacles are still active and will stick in your mouth or throat until thoroughly chewed. If a tentacle gets caught in someone’s throat, it may very well choke them. Please watch your guests closely if you serve this dish.

If you want to wash your Asian foods down with an authentic beverage, you could try some Vietnamese snake wine. A venomous snake is left to steep in rice wine for many months to let the poison dissolve in the wine. The ethanol makes the venom inactive, and the snake is said to have significant medicinal value. The wine may be classified as a rose due to the snake blood imparting an attractive pink color. There are variations on this wine across Southeast Asia, including one where the belly of the snake is sliced open to let the blood drain into the wine and served immediately. Of course you could also try some plain rice wine. Some folks will still opt for Coors (especially the Denver fans).

Lest you think I am fixated on the Asians, I will move on to Europe. Sweden gives us surstomming, fermented Baltic herring. The herring is caught just prior to spawning and fermented in barrels. After a couple of months, the fermentation continues in the can. You may want to open it outside or the house will smell like fermented fish. It can be eaten with flat crispy bread and boiled potatoes. Ritz crackers would probably work. It is popular with beer, so it is the perfect Super Bowl treat.

The Ukraine brings us salo. It is a slab of cured fatback sliced and served on a piece of bread. Once again Ritz is an option. It is generally served with vodka. But it sounds pretty close to some of the things my grandma ate in upper Michigan, so I imagine it would go just fine with beer.

Here’s something that may not taste any better than it sounds: lutefisk. It’s from Norway and Sweden, and is very popular there. I’m told they also eat a lot of it in Minnesota and the upper Midwest. Must have something to do with being in the snow so much of the year. Fish, traditionally cod, is aged in lye for several months. I have heard that it has a strong odor, but have never heard the odor described. It becomes gelatinous in the lye (so you may be able to eat it on a Ritz with some effort).

Still looking? Let’s go back to insects. Or insect larvae. In more proof that we really are a global village, I have larvae snacks from both the Old World and the New. First, from Sardinia we have casu marzu, also known as maggot cheese. The farmer introduces the larvae of the cheese fly to the sheep’s milk cheese. Fermentation is caused by the larvae digesting the cheese fats. It must be eaten while the maggots are alive or it becomes toxic. The EU has banned casu marzu, but you can still get it on the black market in Sardinia and Italy. We do have an extradition agreement with the EU which could be an added cost.

On this side of the Pond, we have Mexican escamoles. Escarmoles are ant larvae which are eaten in tacos with guacamole. They are said to taste nutty and buttery. Since guacamole may also be pricey this year, you would be serving a true delicacy.

My next three foods are found in the U.S., so they may already be known to you. We have scorpion suckers, Rocky Mountain Oysters, and pickled pigs feet. Scorpion suckers are exactly that: scorpions in candy on a stick. Pickled pigs’ feet are pork bits in brine. And Rocky Mountain Oysters are a type of seafood.

Not so fast. To make the oysters, you take the testicles of bulls and peel them. Coat them in flour and seasonings; deep fry them. Then serve them up with dipping sauce. It sounds like the perfect macho snack for the Super Bowl. You can follow them up with fish and chips gelato from Australia, which is what it sounds like: ice cream flavored as fish and chips.

After all these choices, you’re gonna sound kinda lame if you opt for cut-up vegetables or chips and dip.