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COOKING FOR CHIMPANZEES
COOKING FOR CHIMPANZEES
Everything began with a joke a few months ago. I separated a part of our lunch in the sanctuary, put it in some plastic containers and served in the midday trays to some chimpanzees that had already shown more interest for home made food.
Nowadays we have an industrial kitchen, with a dedicate cook in the morning who prepares the meals of the menu that they appreciate the most. There is a chance that no other sanctuary in the world had developed a menu for chimpanzees, respecting each ones preferences and likes.
When we started to prepare home made meals to the chimpanzees, we did not put too much condiment, but soon we realized that they were not accepting it. When we offered our lunch, with flavors, then the preference reaction was immediate. Then we started to develop a menu using the four days I usually stay in the sanctuary. In the beginning we prepared rice, beans, with mincemeat one day; another day a meal with noodle and meat; another day soup with heart and other parts of chicken; and another day a mayonnaise salad.
After a while we noticed that these were not enough. We should be more creative, so that we could avoid the fatigue of the "gourmets we were serving". We stop to do the soup and will only serve it in the winter, in cold days. We took away rice and beans, as long as they got enough of it, and we are going to serve it again eventually. We also started to change the flavors of the noodles in different ways.
We decided to give them roast chicken. I took chicken with potato and polenta, bought in a restaurant, and gave them in the next day. It was a success. Then we prepared a chicken meal prepared by ourselves and put it in plastic containers. Some of the chimpanzees who showed more interest were given only the legs, which they eat with very much taste. Charles, for instance, cries when he sees there are two legs to him, apart from the day meal. Carol and Alex fight for them. Luke is the first one who gets it in the tray.
Nevertheless, this was not enough. Some did not accept the mayonnaise and others did not want the chicken. Then we had to diversify more the menu, and customize it. Things are more complicated each day that passes. Now we have a restaurant prepared to 40 chimpanzees who appreciate good meals (Guga's group does not enjoy home made food for now). Yesterday we prepared a different meal: meat balls with cooked potatoes, with a lot of flavors. It was great. The pictures show how they enjoyed the new menu.
As one can see in the pictures, in the midday trays we put jelly, a cereal bar, a piece of cake, a chocolate and bread slices, apart from the day menu. Sometimes we change a little and give milk cream or honey, or another sweet. Everything goes together with a liter of soy or fruit juice (one per chimpanzee), a bottle of chocolate milk or one liter box of whole milk, to the ones who like it very much, such as Bolivians Queenie and Francis.
This week we decided to organize carefully food preferences of each one, in order to try to serve every taste and to reach efficiency in the meals' preparation. Now that we have a lot of meat stocked, due to the presence of lion Zeus and tiger Chetara - they eat 5 kilos of meat per day -, we will have more material to prepare new variations in the chimpanzees' menu.
It's important to point out that the majority of the chimpanzees insist on using fork to eat the day meals and when we forget them, they ask or complain. The food is also warmed in the microwave oven before it is put in the trays and delivered to each "gourmet chimpanzee".
It is impressive to see Alex and Carol negotiating the hot meals when we take them. Carol is extraordinarily gluttonous, and so is Alex. But they love each other and know how to share. Generally, Alex gives in to Carol's wishes. Last Sunday, we gave roast chicken with potatoes and I took some mayonnaise from our lunch. Carol wanted both. Then Alex ate a part of the mayonnaise and gave the rest to Carol. The same way with the two chicken meals. He kept one. A negotiation intermediated by the intense feeling that unite them; it is an example to humans. And we are privileged to be able to observe and live with them.
Dr. Pedro A Ynterian
President, GAP Project International