Friday, November 14, 2008

Man Eats Dog, Man Feeds Dog

I stood in line at "Blake's Lotaburger" today to get a morning burrito. As I waited, I watched the women who make these perform their magic.

One stood cracking eggs onto the griddle and browning the hash browns (aptly named, I note). Another spread out the huge tortilla to add ingredients. A third topped everything with chili and assembled the final product with a few fancy folds. Then it was tossed into a bag, napkin added and my number called.

It occured to me how funny it would be to see other species in the animal kingdom prepare food for each other. Truly, it is odd to pause in a restaurant and simply think about the human process that is our collective meeting in a building to have others make our meals, sitting together to consume it, using utensils to get it into our mouths!

Maybe it is a bit like cows coming into the barn to be fed by the farmer, but the other cows aren't preparing the food.

There is another peculiar thing about all of our eating rituals. We, seemingly at random, select some animals that we identify as "pets." Then, instead of eating them, we feed them. We even put the food into bowls for some of them.

I suppose only animals that regurgitate for one another come close to such processes. But, I know of few other animals that keep other animals as pets and turn to feeding them, except for perhaps ants who milk aphids.

Even then we manage to go one step further by comparison. More than just milking cows, we feed them hay that we can't eat so that they will process it for us into milk that we can drink.

Or we can just kill them flat out and gnaw on their flesh together at places named like "Lotaburger."


Eric said...

I recently saw a documentary about primates and how many of them do have qualities that we used to consider human. It showed how many primates cheat, lie, etc. But it also showed this one community in which there were something like eleven different primates (lemurs or tamarinds or something like that) all living together, all speaking each others' languages, all watching out for each other, and all eating and feeding communally. It was absolutely amazing. The ones that were more likely to be tree-top dwellers warned the ones below if they saw a snake or something, and tossed food down to them, even though they were a completely different family/species/whatever, and the ones on the ground scouted for jaguars and climbing predators, warning to treetop and mid-level ones of danger, and they took care of each others young, and all sorts of things like that. It was really beautiful.

Eric said...

Well, I was trying to find that documentary (it was on PBS a week or two ago) and came across something similar. I found out that some marmots and ground squirrels also communicate with each other and protect each other. They aren't feeding each other (as far as I know, anyway) but it's still fascinating to see this kind of community altruism in non-primates.

And then there are dolphins. Growing up in a fishing village in Florida, almost everyone I knew had stories about dolphins interacting with humans. Dolphins would help us fish, or would just play with us, or they'd watch over us during scalloping season and alert us if hammerheads came near.

And then i think of a couple of cats I've had that would attempt to feed me when I was sick (out of all the cats I've had through the years, only two ever did). They'd bring me cockroaches or dead lizards or things like that. when I had pneumonia as a teenager, my cat kept bringing me all sorts of dead creatures (he was an indoor/outdoor cat) the whole time I was sick. He would leave them on my pillow or somewhere on the bed for me, and as soon as I was better he stopped.

Recently, my cat, Satsuki, who died of FIP this summer (she was only two years old), did the same thing. She was a very nurturing cat. My other cat, Satsuma, brings me toys, but has never tried to feed me.

Dennis R. Plummer said...

I love these examples! Fascinating, don't you think? Did you ever find the documentary?

Eric said...

No. I thought maybe it was called "Primates Like Us" but when I looked that up it didn't seem to match.