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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Christmas in the Monkey House, and the Recipe I will Bake for the Pope

Earlier this week an event took place in my city that split our populaces opinion down the middle.

On the outer suburbs of the Twin Cities is a Zoo (The Minnesota)that houses some Mexican Gray Wolves, and somehow one of them got out of their dwelling and ran amidst the spectators.

This Zoo has been around for about 30 years, and it has never had an animal escape before.

Although a precedent had never been set, the outcome was predetermined.

The wolf was shot to death.

Many folks (myself included) felt that the violence wasn't needed. We have the benefit of having one of, if not the top wolf observation institute in our state.

It is located in Ely Minnesota.

The guy who runs the joint was just sick about the shooting, but he says that even though his disagrees with the verdict, he understands how they came to it.

Dude said that public perception and insurance rates were what pulled the trigger.

In the StarTribune newspaper, they ran stories on this all week, and on Thursday they issued a photo of the wolf skipping over a pedestrian bridge.

His ears weren't back. The sun was shining and he was just checking things out much in the same manner that a German Sheppard would.

I don't really begrudge them for their "safety first" precautions, but none the less, wolves are majestic creatures, and to exterminate one, especially when it was smiling, it breaks the hearts of angels.

In Saint Paul we have another place where you can visit animals, it's called the Como Zoo.

Unlike the "Minnesota", there are no monorails or dancing dolphin exhibits, the place was built over a century ago and all of us in the Capitol City love it.

Most of the animal cages used to be the size of Nike shoe boxes when I was growing up, but now things have gotten more animal friendly.

The coolest part of the Como Zoo is that they have a primate building.

Attached to it is a submerged pit where the Lowland Gorillas run around in the warm weather months.

This Zoo is free so everybody who grows up east of the Mississippi has spent countless hours watching not only the gorillas, but they also have orangutans, lemurs,DeBrazza's,spider monkeys, 2 toed sloths and these little creepy things called emperor tamarins.

The tamarins are creepy as h***. They are no bigger than an outstretched hand, but you just know that God created them to hide under your bed and wait for you to fall asleep.

When you do this, I'll bet they'd swing up onto your pillow and go straight for your eye balls. Google them once, you'll see what I mean.

Of all the monkeys that have lived in that building, none have been as famous as Casey. He was the silver back, the alpha of all the Western Low Land Gorillas.

About a dozen years ago, during the summer he climbed out of the pit some how and got up onto the public walkways.

Me and Tydus had just been there the day previous and narrowly missed the excitement. They announced the emergency over the loud speaker and cautioned people that they should make their way into a building.

Every cop in Saint Paul, and many from Minneapolis fled to the site and made a human blockade around the zoo's perimeter.

The Como folks weren't in a hurry to blow this magnificent creature away, instead experts scoured the grounds with tranquilizer weapons.

The whole who-haw lacked climax however, Casey simply got bored and jumped back into his pit without any coaxing, sounds like a middle aged guy looking for HBO to me.

That Monkey House contains some of the greatest moments of my life.

OK....now I'm gonna shift gears a little.

3-2-1 and action. OK, when Sue McGleno and I married, both of us had been married prior.

Both of us had parents that were divorced as well.

Our family tree looked like a tilted Cyprus with all kinds of rotten roots.

This can be easy to ignore if you're focused at work, or keep a full schedule, but when the holidays come around......all h*** breaks loose.

I never had a problem being with my wife and 2 kids, that was enough for me, but Sue McGleno????? LOL

She pretty much became determined that she was going to capture a Dickens Christmas experience, after all, didn't out kid deserve it?

I played along for a couple years, but when I realized that my wife didn't recover from the dysfunction until early June, I announced that I was out.

I would spend December 24th and 25th with my immediate family at home or a movie theater.

You would have thought I said I wanted to decorate the tree with Hitler! Sue McGleno was more than upset by my proclamation, she seethed.

So the following December, about a week before the holidays hit, our family had a pow wow to determine who was going to do what, where and with whom during Christ's birthday party.

Sue McGleno and my daughter painted bulls-eyes on their party dresses and put themselves back into the extended family circulation, while my son and I decided to go to the Como Zoo for Christmas.

Now you have to realize, the girls are leaving for the day, they won't be back till midnight, and you know for a fact that me and the boy aren't getting a plate with goose or plum pudding sent home, starvation is the price one pays for cutting off family ties during the holidays.

But you know Klecko, he's a resourceful guy, before pulling into the zoo, I stopped at the Super America gas station and secured our Christmas dinner.........

2 chuck-wagon sandwiches that had to be microwaved, 2 individual sized bags of potato chips, and what would Christmas be w/o Diet Mountain Dew?

Yes, I grabbed 2 of those as well.

The cool thing about the Como Zoo is that they are open 365 days a year, but I gotta tell you, me and the kid were the only non employee humans on the campus.

Part of me enjoyed having a private animal collection to ourselves on this most festive of days, but deep down....I felt like a loser because I too wished I had a celebration to go to like the Walton's had each year on CBS.

Or remember how every year on Little House on the Prairie how Charles would deflect blizzards or climb out of 1000 foot mine shafts to be with Caroline and the girls by dinner time?

I was about to enter into a fricken Monkey House with a crumbled plastic bag full of gas station food with a little boy, that is until he informed me.....

"Dad, look at the sign. It says no food or drinks in the building."

So I turn to my kid and mustered up a smile that was bankrupt of confidence and assured him we'd be OK, but I could tell he was nervous.

There is a bench right in front of the 25 X 20 foot picture window that allows you to look into the Gorillas living room. Tydus and I sat down and I made him tell me the names of each primate we could see, but the lights were dim because nobody was there, and every monkey in that structure laid there listless.

You would have thought it was New Years morning.

So since nothings going on, I pulled out our gas station food and prepared Christmas dinner.

As we ate our food in relative silence, I began to think how blessed I was to at least have a little boy and a monkey to share the holiday with, that's a lot more than what some people get in life.

Now, you guessed it, we aren't even 1/2 way into our feast and the Monkey House attendant enters the building, sees us eating and crisply marches over to inform us that we are breaking the rules.

The guy who did this was older, and he wasn't acting as if he enjoyed getting in peoples faces as much as he had a secret fear of not being efficient,so Klecko slowly stood up, towering over the guys mini frame and explained.....

"Sir, I'm guessing when you are done that you get to go home and celebrate today with people and food, for us...me and my son, this is it. Gas station food and monkeys, that's all we got sir, are you going to take that from us? There's nobody else around."

The guy tossed off a nervous look, slowly turned around and exited the building. He never came back.

My son felt like we just got away with robbing Fort Knox.

"Dad, what would you of done if the guy said no, and made us throw the food away?"

I wasn't sure, I never thought of failure, so after a few seconds I told him the truth.

"I think I would of had to give him a Christmas Day A** Kicking!"

I know you might not like that answer, but an 8 year old sure does, and I was willing to concede etiquette for little boy smiles.

Parts of this story make me sad, for myself, my family and the lack of resources we once had, but things have gotten better over the years.

None of us travel during Christmas anymore. My wife gave up her desire to create something that simply never existed and joins us at the movies.

Last year she asked me if life could offer any scenario that would conclude with me spending Christmas day somewhere else other than within the confines of her and the children.

I thought about it and answered seriously.

Yeah, I would leave if I were called to the Vatican, but not just as a guest, I'd blow that off.

I'd want to bake for the Pope.

Sue McGleno rolled her eyes and hated herself for asking, but sense she did, she decided to run the gambit.....

If that happens, what would you bake for him?

Now that's the real question in life isn't it? What do you bake for a Pope on Christmas morning?

MANGO / COCONUT MACAROONS

Step #1 Roasting the Mango's

Mango's don't ripen fast, so either you have to get them 3 or 4 days before roasting, or you can get champagne mango's. They are yellow and smaller in size, and their flavor is paramount.

These are what I use. When roasting, I make the following batch for the Macaroons, but it also leaves remnants that I use for Ice cream topping.

5 champagne mango's (or 3 regular red ones)
6 tablespoons of brown sugar
2/3 cup of Drambuie
juice of 3 oranges
2 tablespoons of grated ginger

Slice the mango lengthwise -
Place mangoes in a glass baking dish, sprinkle on the brown sugar and Drambuie -
Bake @ 350 "F" until it just turns soft -
Glaze the baking dish with the orange juice and ginger -

Step #2 Baking

Roasted Mango Coconut Macaroon Recipe

4 large egg whites
pinch of salt
1 cup of roasted mango
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
28 ounces shredded sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 "F", then in a bowl, whisk egg whites and salt until it turns frothy. Set for 2 minutes and then fold in the coconut and mango with a spatula.

Next line 1/2 sheet pans with non stick parchment paper or Silpat liners.

Use a scoop or a spoon and your finger to form your pieces. Think golf ball, this is the perfect size. This will give you 2 good bites. Any more than that and you feel as if you are forced to finish it.

Keep 2" between pieces.

Bake until they turn golden brown.....depending on your oven, this should be in the neighborhood of 18-25 minutes.

You will love these, and I'll bet the Pope is going to as well.

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