Comfort Food and At Home with the Birds

In anticipation of the coming snowstorm, I have been reflecting on indoor pleasures. As I tweak this post, my two Diamond Dove Girls are hanging out with me on the futon. The image below is straight from my phone: I managed to lower the screen to take it before they left. Actually just about everything else in this post is from the phone camera.

I don’t try to take good pictures of the indoor crowd very often because it’s simply too complicated. And they don’t like it. Let a Zebra Finch perch on top of my laptop screen and start singing – I’ll whip out my phone to record a video and he vanishes. Beyond the screen sometimes I can catch the Zebra Finches playing with my socks. But this post isn’t about the birds so much as it’s a little ode to the food we eat. One word for the bird at the top of the post. It’s Mr. Green. He still wants to be a Zebra Finch. He keeps practicing his Zebra Finch vocabulary.

We just got a new 25-lb. box of spray millet, which now comes imported from France (on the left, above). It used to come from Canada. And then for a while from somewhere in the US. I don’t know why the market has moved to France but it comes loose in a nice box and takes me about an hour to cut off all the stems and put into plastic bags of about 5 lbs. each for storage, to be broken down into smaller plastic bags as needed. The birds adore it. But they eat a lot of other healthy stuff. I grow spouts for them, and every morning they get little platters consisting of chopped curly parsley, Kray diet (rice, beans, peas and corn) mixed with fortified Roudybush Nibles, egg food, dried bugs, and another cooked food prepared for bird appetites. In addition to all that, they have excellent Abba seed mixes. They are spoiled!

Feeding the birds so well has had an effect on my own diet. I gave up chicken and meat in general soon after I started living with birds and have never missed it. And after cooking good food for the birds every morning, I think it was a natural progression to make beautiful, healthy food for myself.

I decided to take pictures a couple days ago while I was assembling a roasted veggie melange – I usually have roasted veggies on hand but hadn’t made any for a while. I love root veggies and beets in particular. So it started out with carrots, turnips and both red and golden beets. Then I put the beet greens loosely chopped on top to steam the root veggies. Eggplant and cauliflower atop that, whole garlic cloves, olive oil, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, and then baked for an hour and a half in a 350-degree oven. The last photograph is what it looks like just out of the oven – not too colorful with cauliflower on top.

But look at it on the plate. Beet colors and the greens are the best.

My travels to see birds in other countries have inspired my cooking too. I fell in love with farofa in Brazil and decided to make some to have on hand. There are more elaborate recipes I’m sure, but I just saute chopped onions and add cassava flour to the pan and toss until golden. This particular batch was made with already toasted farinha. I just season with salt and pepper.

I added some farofa to my plate of roasted vegetables below. Normally I would just scatter it on top but I wanted you to be able to see it. Also, the green Aji Amarillo dipping sauce that is kind of ignominiously glommed onto the plate, is a really wonderful recipe I found on the internet before I went to Peru. (It has a mayonnaise base which has encouraged me to make my own mayo.) I have been making it ever since. It’s good with everything.

Roasted veggies often serve as a base for a wonderful salad. I reheat the veggies on my plate in the microwave and build a salad on top of it. Hidden treasure lurks beneath the lettuce, radicchio, and whatever.

Something else I discovered online this year when I was looking for something to do with extra cilantro was a vegan recipe for cream of cilantro soup. I modified the recipe by adding serrano chile, because I like the flavor and I am a chile fan. Below is a picture of my last bowlful, to which I added popcorn, which is a tradition in Ecuador.

It’s easy to take pictures of food, especially with the cell phone – so handy – I do it a lot. Thanks to my birds, I think I celebrate making my own meals as much as I do theirs, if not more.

One of my many male Zebra Finches in a quiet moment

The birds have been very, very good for me. They are certainly keeping me good company through this pandemic winter. I hope to find time to devote to sharing some of their singing in future posts. But in the meantime I felt like taking a little break to celebrate food.

Thanks for tolerating my totally off-topic foray into dispelling the winter doldrums. Hope you are comfortable and eating well.