By Booger &
Night time is cat time. We are nocturnal. More things that we like to hunt and chase, trap and taste, come out and run around at night. When you think about it, much of what we catch by simply running it down is rather similar to items in the human diet. In fact, in many third world countries, much of what we consume is the same as the human diet, and we have to compete with humans for food. Eventually, third worlders also eat cats. So in the end, they win. We are organizing an international feline affinity group known as the Society for the Promotion of People Eating More Dogmeat. We have our largest constituency amongst our fellow cats from Southeast Asia. After some marinating, doggies do better on the barbie. Many recipes for goat do quite well also for dog. If you change the name from Cabrito to Perrito in Spanish, and use a little imagination, you could see yourself having luncheon in almost any cantina in Texas or Mexico.
To raise money for our cause, we sell bumper stickers and tee shirts that say ‘EAT MO DAWG”.
Now how did we get off on that awful discussion? Oh yes! I remember. We were comparing what we chase around here in Houston at night to things that our human friends also like to eat. For example, in Louisiana and coastal Texas, people love to eat shrimps and crawfish – crawfish are called mudbugs for the way they live. We eat things like that, but they simply have other names. Can you guess what they might be? Think about it a while. Shrimps is not very good English usage, but around here it is commonplace. Elsewhere shrimps are called shrimp - elsewhere, more than one shrimp is shrimp. That sounds rather odd, doesn’t it? But that’s not the end of it. You ever hear of grits? Grits is a delicious hot cereal preparation that can be made as a breakfast item or in many other incarnations, mixed with hot peppers, gravies, meats, various cheeses, herbs like cilantro, basil or parsley, sausages. YUM. There is no such thing as a grit. There is only grits. Grits is singular, like soup is singular, even though there are many kinds of soup. Grits is very southern and very inexpensive. That is, unless you coarse grind grits, in which instance grits becomes polenta – very Italian and more expensive. Mum is a grits, though – she is a Girl Raised In The South – GRITS. Yeah!
Since we are household felines, most of our diet is served to us in small plates of assorted designs and patterns, especially selected by Mum and Old Muldoon to coordinate with the décor of their kitchen and their otherwise eclectic tastes. Our food consists in part of hard pellets of tasty and healthful enriched grain into which they have infused fish oils and other delightful adulterants to appeal to our olfactory senses as well as our dietary requirements. There are special little dishes for that food. On other dishes we are served what may be considered a mousse or galantine of animal meat and offal, deodorized, stabilized and rearomatised to assure that the opening of the container does not cause humans to retch. This is euphemistically referred to as “canned food”, and, in its earlier incarnations, before its producers had any sensitivity to normal human reactions to anything naturally unpleasant, was called a “can of guts – YUK”. We actually liked it better when it was a can of guts – YUM! On the other hand, one must take into consideration that in this gastronomically advanced household, the canned cat food is laced with real tuna, sometimes also from a can and sometimes fresh grilled if Old Muldoon is grilling tuna that day. And sometimes it is salmon that is added, canned or fresh if Old Muldoon is grilling that. Today the ingredient labels on the cans read much like the labels on containers of human food.
Accustomed as we may become to eating a regular diet of carefully manufactured cat food, and in this house customarily served on those little wooden platforms on which one is served sushi in a Japanese sushi restaurant, with little plates of Asian design, there remains that vestigial feline urge to go out and chase something down and devour it, as we did in the other lives we lead prior to becoming household cats. The outdoor cats have much more latitude to pursue their victuals, and they seem to enjoy that a great deal. But here, even they receive at least one meal a day of formal service catered from within, to supplement their feral diet. Having one’s own chef, as Mum has in old Muldoon, means that even itinerant stray cats may look forward to a sumptuous bill of fare. There is also an all day buffet placed outside, front and back of the house, for the delectation of stray cats and birds.
In this house, the progression from end of day, to evening, to night is a four-act play. In act one, Old Muldoon bestirs himself from whatever it is that he does and selects the wine(s) for the evening tipple and dinner, opening a red wine early so that it may “breathe”. We wonder that we must be going deaf, for we cannot for the life of us hear the wine breathing. And we have excellent hearing. Obviously, wine never snores or has a stuffy nose or clogged allergic sinuses. Old Muldoon says that some wines do have a stuffy nose, but we believe his frame of reference may be different from the customary meaning of stuffy nose.
He then also embarks upon his theatre of preparing to make dinner. This may be a drama or a dance, at various tempi depending upon the menu of the evening. He may be seen chopping and mincing aromatic vegetables, simmering sauces or soups, reducing, straining, reseasoning, adding ingredients as he progresses, so that everything is done to its perfect degree of flavor and texture at the very moment that the dish is ready for presentation to Mum and to whoever else may be visiting for dinner that evening. We have great difficulty following and understanding how and why he does what he does. He will include herb stems and bay leaves in simmering broth, and then strain those out when he pours the broth over the sautéed aromatic vegetables that will give body and their own flavors to the dish. Even the size of the particles of his mirepoix may vary from dish to dish. We think he is simply nuts. To us, if it tastes good and if you can get it down your throat without having to wear yourself out chewing before swallowing, that is simply wonderful.
When he begins this exercise, he is also careful to remove any canned cat food from the fridge so that it may come up to ambient temperature prior to our being served our dinner. The only real differences that are meaningful to us are the nuances of flavor that vary according to whether the canned cat food is freshly opened just before service or is from a previously opened can that has rested under refrigeration since the last feline buffet. The freshly opened can is much better. Just when he performs these rituals depends upon in part upon the cooking time of whatever it is that he will serve for dinner. Evening meal service for people occurs between 7:45 and 8:00 pm. Everything is timed backward from that event.
The second act of evening consists of feeding and tending to the needs of indoor and outdoor cats. This is done by Mum. At the appointed time, Mum will enter the kitchen area, and there ensues a pas de deux, almost musically coordinated movements by Mum and Old Muldoon, a veritable ballet of food preparation and other coordinated steps that they perform in perfect synchronization, alternately coming together at the sink or fridge and coming apart and spinning off into space, seemingly to some unheard orchestral rendition.
The second act consists of two scenes.
Act Two, Scene Two consists of Mum and Old Muldoon sitting out in the garden, enjoying a first bottle of wine and conversing on anything that may come to mind. The windows are opened so that we may sit at the window and listen in or watch and hear the outdoor cats as they come up to Mum and Old Muldoon to be petted or otherwise paid attention to. If dinner for them consists of something grilled, the grill will have been started and will be heating up to some unbelievable degree of heat that can only be approximated on the sun or in hell. In this scene, Old Muldoon will repeatedly enter and leave the house to stir something, baste something, start something cooking so that it will be ready when everything else is ready, prepare table settings, fetch wine refills, chop fresh herbs that he adds to the cooking at the last minute.
Act three begins as Old Muldoon returns to the kitchen to cook the last part of the dinner, that which takes the shortest cooking time, and to prepare to present the meal. The table is set with napery and those strange utensils that people use when they eat most things. They eat things differently. Mum, for example, will eat asparagus with a knife and fork, whilst Old Muldoon simply picks everything up with his large paw and eats directly from his hand whenever possible. When he has organized everything to serve, Mum is summoned, and the dinner table becomes the scene.
When there is no company for dinner, we are given the run of the dinner table. Dinner is really a family affair, with Mum and Old Muldoon in their chairs and us sprawled across the table with them, as though we were table decoration.
Many times we share their dinner. We love to eat lettuce and tomato, asparagus and broccoli. Whenever those are items on the dinner menu, little Asian dishes of those favorites are placed on our sushi platforms, and we can eat right along with them. Mum always instructs Old Muldoon to keep lettuce and tomato portions minced and unseasoned for us, and to keep broccoli and asparagus portions unseasoned and set aside to cool for us. It’s just as though Old Muldoon were also our own personal chef. If Old Muldoon leaves his dinner unattended, even for a moment, we just have to sneak over to it and check it out.
At the end of every meal, Bubba gets into Mum’s lap and looks up at her lovingly, and gets petted and cuddled. It’s disgusting for any cat to pander to a human for affection. They should be chasing after us seeking affection.
There is an entre act mini scene during which Old Muldoon cleans up the dinner dishes, washes pots and pans, cleans the stove and sets up the coffee maker for the next morning whilst Mum goes back out to tend to her outdoor and stray cats. She sees that their beds are all straight and that they have their security facilities all set up so that stray feral cats don’t decide to come in and start fights.
After that, they get themselves all sorted out and ready for the last act in which they assemble in the living room in their easy chairs and fall asleep watching late night television. Just before they nod off, Bubba jumps up onto Mum’s lap and I sometimes crawl under her afghan for warmth. Then, usually around the time the late show starts, they doze off and we doze off, for about an hour or so. By midnight at the latest, the curtain has come down on the evening and we are all four of us in bed, all cuddled up and happily asleep.
This is when the night sounds begin.
Houston is always temperate, warm, wet, humid, the perfect environment for every sort of slithering, creeping, crawling thing that debouched from Noah’s ark when it came to rest upon Mount Ararat. They too are nocturnal for the most part. They also represent a large measure of the diet of feral cats who, unlike us, must hunt for their food. All this peripatetic protein is very quiet for the most part. Some of the bugs make sounds by rubbing their wings as a signal to each other, but except for that their sounds are usually below the hearing range of humans. But a cat can hear them, and a cat can see them in the dark. So, having slept most of the day, we are awake at night when the food is out moving around. Even though we are indoor kitties, we can go to the big windows and watch the mobile cat food outside and watch the outdoor and feral cats chasing them around the yard.
Sometimes there are confrontations when two outdoor cats are trying to pounce upon or stalk the same object of their potential delectation. Then there is much noise, hissing and howling – and Mum awakes and goes outside to break up the fight and admonish them that there is really no sense in fighting and getting injured over a snail or lizard when they abound throughout the yard and there is more than enough for everyone. She then returns to bed and immediately goes back to sleep. Old Muldoon, of course, sleeps like a rock and never hears anything out in the yard, no matter what. We recall Mum suggesting that Old Muldoon is not really providing much protection for the family, as any marauder could enter the house and impose his will without ever waking Old Muldoon. To this he explains that Mum is his watchdog, and that since she hears everything, no matter how insignificant, she can simply awaken him when needed, and he will then do what is required to repel boarders. He has early warning systems everywhere, and they are the cleverest devices. For instance, he never oils the hinges of any gate or outside door. He wants them to squeak so that, if someone intrudes, they will immediately awaken Mum, who will then immediately waken him, and he will execute his duty in the matter, whatever that may be – we shudder to think about it.
Mum recently told Old Muldoon that her sleep is being disturbed by the sound of snails munching on leaves out in the garden at night. Muldoon is incredulous. He is certain that no human can hear a snail munching on a leaf, even if there were no wall between the person and the munching snail. But Mum insists that she is becoming old and haggard from lost sleep because of the snails. Old Muldoon insists that one look at Mum will tell you that she is neither old nor haggard, so the entire claim must simply be a joke that she is playing on him, because he is always doing things like that to everyone. He suggested that Mum buy a Japanese waterfall machine so that the soothing sound of falling water will drown out the cacophony of munching snails. He also suggested that they go to the music store and look for recordings of snail munching music. According to him there is music for everything, from intestinal discomfort to truck driving. He also attempted to cross examine her on her hearing acuity, by asking if she can hear a Hibiscus blossom opening into a flower. She gave him a suggested route to follow on his way to where she said he could put remarks like that. We think that the entire scenario is terribly funny.
Bye and bye, the sounds of night come to include Old Muldoon arising before four in the morning to begin his day. He says that he works best early in the morning when there are no interruptions. He also claims that he has a deal with Booger to wake him up if he should oversleep. Now, as a matter of fact, Booger does start walking on him and licking his face around that time almost every day. No one could explain it except in terms of his really having an understanding with Booger to that effect, until Mum remembered that Old Muldoon is a master at using the old Indian alarm clock. The Indian alarm clock is an old field craft technique in which you drink water just before retiring at night. The more water you drink, the earlier you have to get up to go pee. Mum says that’s how he does it. We like the story about having an understanding with Booger better. Mum says that she can hear his key strokes three rooms away with his office door closed. He just rolls his eyes. Around 5:45 am, Old Muldoon goes out the back door, having first removed the appropriate cat food from the fridge to come up to temperature before cat breakfast time. When he returns from his walk with High Fibre Hoffman he pushes the button on the coffee maker and returns to work until coffee is ready and Mum is to be served her first cuppa upon her rising. And night is over.
281 584 0519
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