Monday, January 3, 2011

Food VS Eating

After 6 hours of driving through Iowa, I got back home yesterday just before dusk set in. Knowing that I would be wiped out the following morning, I decided to get an early jump on some of my morning rituals.

Along the side of my house is something I've created called the TREADWELL BIRD SANCTUARY.

This is a series of houses, feeding stations and watering options for the birds in my neighborhood. The "TBS" which I call it for short provides comfort for hundreds of birds, rabbits and squirrels.

I don't think anything on earth gets me as high as being able to feed any creature of Gods. With all my heart I believe it is the noblest thing I can do.

In addition to wrens, blue jays, downy woodpeckers and finches....we also get cardinals and blue jays.

Is there anything more majestic?

I really don't think so, but I got home, was tired and crabby and decided to restock suet blocks, fill seed containers and increase water levels when all of a sudden I noticed that about 6 feet in front of me on the ground was a female cardinal. I froze in my tracks and stood silent.

She hopped around a snow bank that was under a feeding station and ate the seed droppings of the days previous diners.

After 5 minutes this stunning creature just continued to amble, not skip or fly in spurts, but amble.

This made me nervous because when birds spend a prolonged time on the ground this often times means they are wounded or sick.

Just as little Klecko's sensitive heart began to sink.....behold.....the bird flew briskly into a near by pine tree.

At this point I went into my house to fill an empty plastic Kool Aid pitcher (you have to do this a total of 3 times) to increase the water level in the Treadwell Bird Sanctuary's heated bird bath, but when I came back out, there she was, the little cardinal had returned.

The bird bath was 15 yards away and my guest was directly between me and it, so once again I paused and waited for my friend to have an opportunity to finish her meal before I trudged through her feasting area.

10 minutes passed.....I stood silent, 20 minutes passed, and then the screaming monkey ring tone from my Droid went off. When I answered my phone I looked up and Sue McGleno was staring out of the kitchen window at me.

"What the "H" is wrong with you?" she asked. when I whispered that I was waiting on a young female cardinal she looked down and saw it too. We both hung up our phones and continued watching for around 15 more minutes before our guest finally left for the day.

When I got back inside Sue McGleno asked me if I felt like a dumb a** wasting over 1/2 hour on a bird. The question was fair, and I explained if I had to leave for work, or go to a little league game I might not have responded like that, but the beauty was I had nothing left to do, and on the few occasions in my life when time is idle......I love to watch creatures eat.

Often times people put their focus on food, this is good, however it is nothing without understanding the actual process of eating.

For most of my life I have taken mental notes on what happens when you take time to respect the process.

Why is it that the squirrels in metropolitan parks will eat sugar babies directly from pedestrians hands? Because the bond of trust has been completed, and that trust which binds humans and animals with food is amazing.

The same goes for ducks, geese, horses, Romanians, Nuns and politicians.

If a person takes time to understand the diners eating process, they in fact have lodged themselves into that creatures soul.

Now some of you foodies might not get what I am trying to describe here, but if you want to understand the secret....bare with me a second.

In a land of luxury (like America) most people have a preconceived notion that food is an entitlement, that an outcome is predicated by ingredients instead of the process,

But if you go to more established parts of the globe that boast a longer history, or more mature countries with places that have endured famine and hardship you'll see a totally different perspective.

In Moscow when you have an opportunity to take a meal - many of your colleagues will wish you Bon Appetit.

When they do this, you can see a look in their eyes, a look that says "Dude, I so wish I was you"

For most of them, they don't fret over whats on the plate, they are just grateful that the plate is in use.

The Russian government has declared bread an essential staple and attached price fixing to it, so if you want to open a bakery, it's hard to be creative over there because you'll lose money. Prices are set low so every person in the country will be able to afford several loaves.

How interesting it was to me to not hear people whining about "Gluten Free" or "Lactose Whatever" These peeps just ate and enjoyed it.

You know who else is cool? African People!

On the occasions when I've worked the Saint Agnes bread table at the farmers market or the State Fair, I always dug the Africans. Here is a country of people who simply love their food. Most of the guys don't walk directly up to the table, it starts off with them catching your product in their peripheral, and then they'll circle around like a vulture works a carcass.

On the second pass they pick up the loaf, bury their nose into the plastic bag and inhale with all their might. as they set the loaf down a delirious smile overtakes their face. sometimes that will be enough and they will go on their way, but many times they will come back and purchase multiple loaves on their 3rd or 4th pass.

The purchase of the product is a courtship. The act is as innocent, pure and delightful as anything I have ever witnessed.

Older people can be tougher, often times if they are a returning customer, they almost never mention flavor, instead they enjoy discussing ingredients (i.e. why did you start adding vinegar in this bread) and formulation. No matter how good your product is, it's never quite good enough because that honor is usually bestowed on a retail concept that they visited during their youth.

A time where it should be noted that their taste buds functioned at a much higher level.

Food might be glam up until your 50's, but it seems much more practical to my clients that have entered into their 60's!

Retarded (Mentally Challenged?) people can be really fun to feed as well. When I was a young teen I worked at Trevilla of Robinsdale, and the dietary aid chicks were kinda hot, so I'd smoke cigs with them and help them push their meal carts around.

I remember how intriguing it was that most of these retarded people would examine their food so closely, every single piece,and the ones that possessed clear communication skills would basically review what they were served every time. They really had this inner joy when food became a topic.

Then there was that day I went to Arlington High School to basically talk to gang banger's who were enrolled there. The thing that was unique about this class was none of the kids were American born. there was Mexicans, Hmongs, Somali girls, a dude from France, and some other cats from Central America.

The teacher gave me a list ahead of time, and I made each of these kids a loaf which was made from ingredients from their homelands.

I'll never forget what happened after I gave Somali girl a Peppadew boule.

After my discussion she came up and put her hand on my arm and told me how grateful she was to receive such a gift. You just had to be there, there was no bull**** in this statement. The bread splashed impact hard.

So Klecko....what exactly are you trying to say here?

Well, as many of you know......Danny Klecko is a man of the world. In a 1/2 century's time, he has seen many people search for answers.

Often times people will do this with booze, drugs, sex or even HBO, but I'm hear to tell you. Nothing cements a bond like trust! And, the strongest trust is forged in the meals you serve.

Now fly away little bird!


  1. I think this is one of your best posts, ever. Thanks for a great read today. :)

    Hugs from Belgium!

  2. So true! And again, very well said. You do put things into perspective, Klecko. And you make me laugh.