11

Critter Capers: Letters to St. Nicholas

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Dear Santa Claws

Mom said that if we were good animals, that you would bring us presents on Christmas. I’m not sure when that is, but I think it’s soon. There’s a big tree in the front room and lots of bags upstairs.

But maybe not. Mom said you live where it’s cold this time of year and you don’t look cold in your picture.

Anyway, I have been a good cat. I don’t scratch on the furniture. Well only the love seat, and you can’t even tell. I give mouse presents and cuddle a lot. Even with the other cat. And I always use the litter box.

Would you please bring me

  1. A warming blanket that doesn’t have all those wires that push into my skin. I know I’m furry, but I can still feel them. I can’t cuddle with my human because he wears one of those all the time.
  2. Some smoked turkey in a bag like Mom brings home. I really like it, but they only share a little.
  3. One of those toys I can hold in my front paws and kick with my back paws. The other cat doesn’t like those, so I don’t have to fight her off.
  4. A How to Catch Mice book for the humans. No matter how many times I show them how to hunt, they still want me to make the kill. They need to learn to fend for themselves.
  5. A silencer for the other cat that I can control. She talks a LOT.
  6. A bag of the kitty kibble they buy for the spiny guy. He gets better quality food than I do.
  7. A new scratching post. The ones downstairs are used up. My human keeps saying the he will resurface it, but that never happens. If you can’t bring that, could you please bring him a video of what happens to cats if they can’t sharpen their nails correctly? Or maybe something from YouTube of a bad cat using his human as a scratching post when the post is unusable?

Thank you very much.

Super Snooper (I have enclosed a picture so you know for sure who I am. The humans NEVER take pictures of anything and it shows.)

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Dear Santa

You sure look like a cool cat. I bet you bring all kinds of good stuff.

I have been a good kitty. I make sure my human (Mom) gets up on time for work. It’s not my fault she gets up really early some days and not so early other days. You know cats like routines. I help make sure she gets enough sleep. Twice I have told the humans when the other cat was locked in another room. Maybe it was three times. The first time they ignored my crying. I help Mom find things on this little computer thingy. And I always use the litter box.

Please bring me

  1. One of those fishing pole toys. I used to have a lot of them. The humans got mad when I chewed the strings. How else was I supposed to play with the toy after I captured it? The male humans don’t leave their fish on the hooks.
  2. A warming blanket that the other cat won’t get her smell all over. And that the humans won’t steal from me when they get cold. Something nice and furry would be good.
  3. Some of that meat the humans had the other day. I think they called it a “pot roast”. (That’s kinda weird since it didn’t come out of a pot.) I usually don’t like human food, but that was really yummy.
  4. A How to Speak Siamese for the humans. They keep saying that I talk a lot, but if they would just listen and respond I wouldn’t have to talk so much.
  5. A heater like the spiny guy has if you can’t get #2. It’s some kind of board they put next to his cage. Then they cover his cage with a blanket. He stays really warm. I think the humans could make a blanket tent for us cats (I would share) and attach the board to one of the sides.
  6. A different job for Mom so she can stay home all day and cuddle with us (I would share). Maybe one of those jobs you do at home or something that works with Dad’s schedule so we always have a human to cuddle with.
  7. A cat door to upstairs where the bedrooms are. When it’s cold, Dad keeps the door up there closed. Something about heating a barn. I don’t get it – we live in a house. Anyway, then we could get up and go to sleep up there when we want (I would share). And Mom couldn’t kick me out when I want breakfast on my normal schedule.

Your Friend

Kommando Kitty

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Dear Mr. Claws

I hope that I am not imposing by asking for a few things for Christmas. I have worked on being a better hedgehog all year. I no longer poop on Mom. I don’t hiss at the humans or curl up into a ball every time I see them. I am trying to get my quills to stay soft enough so they don’t need the gloves. I am very appreciative of the wax worms they give me to eat. I cuddle up and sleep on both of them now.

I am requesting:

  1. One of those plastic balls so I can run around the room by myself without worrying about the furballs. Please make sure it is hedgehog-safe.
  2. Soundproofing for my cage. Dad doesn’t seem to understand that I’m nocturnal. He turns on the TV all the time. And loud (hedgehogs have very sensitive ears).
  3. If you can’t soundproof my cage, would you please send him some earphones?
  4. A larger water dish. I am a clean hog and use it for both bathing and drinking. (The bathing is mainly when I stick my snout too far into the bowl.) They don’t remember to check it every day. My home is nice and warm and the water in the air keeps my skin soft. But then I don’t have it to drink.
  5. A timer for Dad. He used to get me out every night at 10p. Now he only gets me out every other night. It would be OK but then he forgets and I don’t get to have my worm snack for several days.
  6. A barrier so the furballs can’t play right next to my cage. They growl and thump and make all kinds of noise. Not only does it wake me up, it gives me nightmares. I guess it would be daymares.
  7. Some extra worms so I can share with Mom and Dad. That way they would know why I like them so much. Maybe we could snack together every night.

Most Sincerely Yours in Gratitude

Horatio, Lord Nelson

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8

Roadkill, the Nouvelle Cuisine

I am reading a wonderful book, A Prickly Affair: My Life with Hedgehogs by Hugh Warwick. Horatio, my hedgehog, approves. Mr. Warwick is a British researcher whose specialty is hedgehogs. Apparently hedgehogs are so common over there that little research has been done to this point.

One passage gave me pause. Mr. Warwick is a vegetarian. Not so one of his colleagues. This man says that he has eaten a hedgehog, but swears that it was roadkill. Horatio is not amused. The man says it was delicious; tasted a little like chicken. Why does everything in the world taste like chicken? Did chickens run around the prehistoric world sharing their genes with everyone? Disturbing thought.

A paragraph or so later, another colleague states that she too has eaten roadkill hedgehogs. Horatio is even less amused. Given the state of roadkill around here, I’m a little disturbed.

Are these people telling the truth that the hedgehogs were really roadkill? Perhaps one of their little friends got overly feisty and met an unfortunate end. Are they the cause of the roadkill? If not, how long has it been waiting? Are all those jokes about British cuisine true, and roadkill is an acceptable part of the diet?

A short quote from (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/recipes/10246910/Five-roadkill-recipes-to-try-at-home.html): Lawmakers in the US state of Montana have introduced legislation allowing locals to take home wild animals killed in road accidents. In that wildlife-filled state, you’re now entitled to make a meal of any deer, elk, moose or antelope you happen to stumble across. But in the UK, roadkill connoisseurs are far more likely to have a squirrel, rabbit or pheasant bubbling away in the pot.

Perhaps the British are less civilized than I had been giving them credit for. I decided to look at things on our side of the pond. If British researchers were eating things they find on the side of the road, who knew what we might be doing.

Sure enough, we eat our share of accident victims as well. There is a lovely site called Dead Food (www.deadfood.com) that specializes in recipes for various types of creatures. I can’t make up my mind whether it is a real site or a joke. The recipes for things like muskrat and possum appear to be real. The recipes for elephant and camel, not so much.

According to Jezebel.com, people in the UK are not allowed to eat roadkill they have personally run over. It seems the law was enacted to keep people from seeking out their dinner and killing it. Over here, people are free to take home whatever they find. I guess we are less likely to intentionally run things over (other than cheating spouses). The recipes here certainly sound serious.

As you can probably tell, I am having a little trouble believing that people can eat food that is just lying by the side of the road with no knowledge of how long it’s been there. But is does seem like a waste to just let the meat rot with so many people going hungry. Besides, rumor has it that the French developed all those wonderful sauces to cover the taste of rancid meat.

Which leads me to the practical issues. If I come across what appears to be a freshly-dead animal, how do I get it home? I suppose I could carry a bag for the smaller items: possum, ground hog, skunk. It seems like you would need more than one of these for a meal. Do I take it home and throw it in the freezer until I accumulate enough? I suppose it’s weather-dependent on whether it can stay in the trunk during the day while I am at work.

What about the larger items? A fresh deer might be appealing, but I certainly couldn’t lift it by myself. Besides it won’t fit in my trunk. I guess I could drag it into the bed of my husband’s truck. If I were out with some friends to help. Hey guys, what’s that on the side of the road? A dead animal? Fresh? Can you help me get it home? Probably not a first-date adventure.

How do I get it to food form? I have no idea how to skin and gut an animal. What parts are actually the meat? I guess I’d have to find someone to process an entire deer.

Without a use-by date, I wouldn’t know how fresh it is. So it goes in the slow cooker. With lots of onions. And wine. And spices.

Never mind. I don’t like meat that much anyway.

7

Gee, I Didn’t Know I Needed That

Wandering around the store, I see all kinds of stuff. Stuff I have lived without to this point in time. Stuff that I might like to have. Mostly just stuff.

Waffle-makers in large, medium and small sizes. I guess that the idea is that everyone can get the perfect size for their individual situation. But what happens if you are single and own a small waffle maker because you’re not really that fond of waffles. Then you get a sleep-over friend who loves waffles? Do you want to make the commitment to a $45 large waffle-maker as a commitment to the friend? Do you throw the $45 commitment at the other commitment when you find out that your friend has other friends with Belgian waffle-makers?

Individual condiment dishes for each of your guests. I originally thought this might be a good idea for those people who are repulsed that their significant other hangs out with double-dippers. Then I looked more closely. The dishes hold maybe 2 oz. That would probably limit their usefulness to things like wasabi and other sauces that people use in small quantities. Or caviar, if your friends are the type who put it on their baked potatoes. Note: your caviar-loving friends are probably expecting something a little less tacky than a made-in-China ceramic holder for their condiments.

Foil cutter for your wine bottles. I’m guessing these may be intended for those people who are embarrassed to use a knife to cut the foil. Or those who have lost a finger trying to use a knife to cut the foil. It looks like one of those things someone would have to show me how to use the first six times I had it out. I’m less embarrassed using the knife.

Cheese grater. I have a full-size box grater, a small box grater with attached box to catch the gratings, a grater I hold in one hand and grate with the other (requires way to much coordination for me),  and a set of rasps. I can grate anything I need to grate. And my fingers as well. However, I can see where the less well-endowed (no, the phrase does not always refer to female anatomy) might like one of these. It would certainly be more impressive to bring to the table for a romantic dinner than a box grater to grate Parmesan cheese onto your date’s salad. Assuming your date wants someone else grating his/her cheese, likes Parmesan cheese, and is worth the cost of fresh Parmesan and the special grater. (see waffle-maker above)

Stew meat. I made a beef stew today. The meat was off a chuck roast. It’s a cheap cut of beef in a world where there is no cheap beef. However, if I wanted to get stew meat from chuck, it was almost a dollar a pound more. For the same meat cut into bite-size pieces (if you’re a water buffalo). It took me about 15 minutes to cut up the roast and remove the major marbling. I’m sure the store’s butcher would have been done in less than 5.

Pre-crumbled cheese. Feta, I get. It doesn’t matter whether you buy it in a chunk or crumbled, it ends up crumbled by the time you’re ready to use it. Same with bleu cheese. And let’s face it, those cheeses are not generally on the menu of the cash-strapped. But paying twice as much so that you can get pre-crumbled cheddar and colby jack? It’s not like those cheeses are going to look classy on your salad anyway. Maybe you’ve noticed that those are the ones in the “This salad is not as healthy as you think” pictures.

Pre-made Easter baskets. I’m a stuffed-animal purist. The animals they put in these baskets would never get a second look. The candy? Not even worth the calories.  As far as I’ve been able to tell, the main advantage to these baskets? The year the child realizes that the basket they get on Easter morning is the same one they saw on a self at the grocery store is the last year the parent needs to buy one.

Gack. I just realized that my issue with several of these things is that they put convenience over the willingness to spend time preparing food for our loved ones. The others are spending money for specialized equipment I don’t need. I sound like my grandmother. Is that worse than sounding like my mother?

 

4

Everyone’s Confused; It Must be the Holidays

Something strange happens every year about this time. It’s the migration of the once-a-year shopper. Either that or the beginning of cold weather affects our brains more than scientists have admitted to us. All of a sudden I start getting a lot more questions about where to find things in the store. Way more than could be accounted for by the increased number of shoppers.

For example, a woman is looking at a display of cheese, “Where are the spices to use in a crock pot?” I explain to her that she needs to be looking in the spice aisle. She looks a little relieved and says thank you. I’m not sure why she thought she would find spices at the end of an aisle that says cheese.

“Where are the frozen vegetables?” I assume they want to know which aisle. I start out with, “They’re with the frozen foods, in…” As I fumble for the aisle number, she says, “Oh, that makes sense! Thank you.” I’m left to wonder whether she really didn’t understand that frozen vegetables would be with frozen food.

“Do you sell red hots? They come in a jar.” I look puzzled. The only red hots I know are hot dogs at the ball park and cinnamon candy. He says, “They come in a jar. They sell them at other stores.” I ask him whether they are meat, vaguely remembering something rather odd looking in a jar in the meat department. “Yes, that’s them.” So I send him to the meat department. Hopefully I hadn’t been looking at pickled eel or something.

“Where are the drain covers? For a kitchen sink.” I’m holding a box of cheese. I go across the aisle to look at kitchen implements, pretty sure it’s not the right spot. I said that I thought he would need to go to plumbing (the other side of the store). He asked if I could call someone who knew. So I called the manager who said they were in the plumbing aisle. And I took him to the same place we had been headed five minutes earlier.

“Where are the large slices of cheese? They used to hang on this wall.” She’s on one side of me while I kneel, stocking. I point to my other side. “Oh that’s right! I knew they were here somewhere.”

“Where are the large packages of processed cheddar cheese?” I tell her that we only sell the one size. “No you don’t. They go right here.” She points at a spot at the bottom of the cooler. I tell her that we don’t have cheddar cheese in those spots, just American cheese. “Then you just got rid of it. You always had it there.” I don’t know what to say. It hasn’t been there for the past two years I’ve been in the department.

“Where’s the gravy?” I tell her which aisle it’s in; two aisles past where we’re talking. “I’ve looked everywhere. It’s in a jar.” (What’s with the jars – do people think we keep them all together?) So I get up, and see a manager at the end of the that aisle. I walk toward him, and she follows. About halfway down the aisle. “Oh, here it is! Thank you!”

“Where’s the canned pumpkin? I’ve looked in fresh vegetables and fresh fruit and can’t find it. Do you have it on an end-cap?” I take her to the pie fillings and she gets what she wants. If she had told me that she had searched canned vegetables and couldn’t find it, I probably would have been a little less surprised by the question.

It’s not just the customers. A cashier wanted to know if she could give a rain check to a woman who wanted cheese slices that were out-of-stock. Her manager explained that since the item was not on sale, there was no need for a rain check. The woman could come back at any time and get it for that price. At least it was a new cashier.

I got the Thanksgiving shipment of cream cheese today. Two pallets of it. Due to space considerations, I put it on two (very heavy) carts which an extremely strong person from the grocery section helped me get into the cooler. These carts are intended to be used as storage so we can take out cases as we need them (not move the entire cart). I placed signs on each one saying that they should not be moved unless there were two people doing it. A while later, a guy from the deli comes up and asks if I can help him clean up the cream cheese in the cooler. “I needed to move it to get the chickens out. I barely moved it and it all fell over.” There was no way for one person to move it without jerking the cart to get it to move.

I asked him whether he had read the sign.