The 614orty Platter – Fit for (Non-)Human Consumption

Can you believe I’ve been doing these playlists/blogposts for seven-plus-months now?  Or for that matter, that this blog has reached seven years of age?

To be honest, I thought both these things would fade out after awhile – as pandemic stretched onward, I didn’t know exactly how to continue the blog, at least as it had been run previously.  The playlist was something of a last-ditch experiment (the result of working from home and a paid Spotify subscription) to keep the blog going, and to be honest, I thought that wasn’t going to hold my interest for long either.  

Right now, things are moving along swimmingly – my Instagram feed basically has taken over the function of my blog in terms of exposing the latest and greatest eats and sights in the Columbus area, and beyond.  And the playlists have been a great to not only discover some great music from all around the world, but also really exercise my creative bones in terms of conjuring up themes.  So thus, the blog rolls on, maybe not the same in the same format, but still written with enthusiasm. As author C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Onward and upward!”

Chomp, chomp, chomp – as this Cheetah at the Columbus Zoo
demonstrates, we’re not the only creatures that love to eat

Now this week’s theme struck me during a National Geographic show – up until now, we’ve focused on human-related experiences in terms of food and beverages.  But as we all well know, we’re not the only living beings on this planet, and what individual members of the various five kingdoms consider food is about as diverse as the number of members themselves.

So why not?  What delicacies are on their plates?  There might be one or two on this list that humans would at least consider, but for the most part, these things would fall under the “unfit for human consumption” label (playlist embedded at the end of the post.)

1) Eucalyptus – A prime attraction at almost any zoo, Australia’s Koala Bear has adapted its body to eat eucalyptus leaves, which have toxins which make them inedible to most other living beings.  Must be nice to have the buffet table all to yourself.  To start us off, Avey Tare (aka David Portner) starts us off with his “Jackson 5” track from his 2017 “Eucaplyptus” album.  Portner had been a member of the highly experimental and influential band Animal Collective before branching out on his own to create his own eclectic inventory of solo and collaborative works.

2) Ants – Ants are plentiful, so it’s no surprise that they’re on the platters of numerous creatures.  People who live in the Southern portions of the United States wish more creatures would feast on the notorious fire ant. Unfortunately for them, the ant’s main natural predator, the Phorid Fly (which uses the heads of fire ants to lay their eggs, the larvae then devours the ant as it hatches) is still in the process of being introduced to this part of the world as a means to control these nasty hordes.  The title of our track, “Goody Two Shoes” by Stuart Leslie Goddard (better known as Adam Ant) would certainly NOT apply to these pests, but it certainly is a catchy tune nonetheless.

3) Termites – Like ants, termites are one of those “plentiful creatures on many other creatures’ dinner plates” food sources (even our previously mentioned ants have termites as a potential meal item.)  Perhaps the most interesting termite-only predator resides in the Assassin Bug, which positions itself at the entrance of a termite nest as if it were attacking it, then basically ambushes the hapless bugs who are roused to rush to the entrance to defend the nest.  Boston-based band Helium, anchored by Mary Timony and former members of Dumptruck, bring the noise here with “Termite Tree”, from the 2017 “Ends With And” compilation of obscure tracks from their former label Matador.

4) Leaves – Another plentiful category of food, but this time the herbivores reign supreme.  For this category, we thought we’d focus on one particular herbivore – deer seem to have adapted to eating leaves from the plants like the False Hellebore and Skunk Cabbage, which both contain oxalic acid and generally give other ungulates like sheep, cattle and even goats health issues when digested.  Appropriately, we thought Miguel’s “leaves” as the perfect song here – the San Pedro, CA-based artist has firmly planted himself in the romantic R&B/Soul/Hip-Hop vein as artists like Prince and Babyface.

5) Ribwort Plantain – We thought we’d go leaf-specific again with this specific edible in our fifth slot, which is the realm of the Tiger Moth Caterpillar. The leaves of this plantain contain high levels of iridoid glycosides; the caterpillar eats just enough of the plant to release defensive chemicals which deter predators like ants and parasites.  Born as Innocent Udeme Udofot, the Nigerian musical artist MC Galaxy represents our tasty(?) dish with his version of modern African pop rhythms from his 2017 single “Plantain.”

6) Porcupine – Members of the rodent family and found throughout the world, porcupines are fairly long-lived herbivores, much of it due to its unique defense mechanism (a coating of sharp quills which often make them more trouble than it’s worth for many predators.) However, one such predator which seems fearless against this formidable defense resides in the Fisher, a North American mammal who has the quickness and the agility to avoid a porcupine’s quills and take down its pointy prey. Off the classic album of the same name, Echo and the Bunnymen pump out a pulsing rhythm and angsty lyrics with their tune “The Back of Love.”

7) Bamboo – While certain rats, lemurs and gorillas will eat this member of the Grass (Poaceae) Family, most people are the most interested in one particular consumer – the cute and cuddly Giant Panda and its cousin in name only Red Panda (the two animals reside in different family groups taxonomically.) Providing the dramatic backing rhythms here is the Metro Manila, Philippines-based band Bamboo, whose alt rock sound and prideful lyrics made “Noypi” a smash hit, earning them numerous country-based Song and Group of the Year awards.

8) Bees – Like porcupines, bees are generally not something other creatures think of his prey due to their defense response (invaders are guaranteed to receive a swarm of painful, venomous stingers.)  Still, bees are food for a surprising number of creatures, from birds to mammals to reptiles and even other insects, including the infamous 2020 appearance of the Murder Hornet outside of its usual Asian hunting grounds. With that in mind, most humans would trade a can of live bees for “A Can of Bees”, the 1979 debut album from Cambridge, England based band The Soft Boys “Human Music” The Soft Boys, a band fueled unique songwriting and music vision of Robyn Hitchcock, who has had his own prolific and influential solo career after the band’s disbanding in the mid-80s.

9) Clams – Okay, we thought we’d throw in something that pretty much most predators can agree on: clams are freakin’ delicious.  Everything from fish to seabirds to mammals (both land- and sea-based) to fellow sea creatures (crabs, whelks, starfish, etc.) love to jam to the nearest clam for a solid meal.  Keeping that in mind, we wonder if Southern California snarky punk rockers NOFX had a sense of the eventual clam’s sad demise with their 2000 tune “Clams Have Feelings Too”, from the album “Pump Up The Valuum.”

10) Algae – It’s not easy being green, and algae might be proof of that.  This water-based plant is a staple meal item for many water-based fish and other creatures that can be found around water such as frogs and insects.  Boston-based DJ RJ Kel is relatively young at 21 years of age, but has already created a sound that “crafts intricate beats spanning a wide variety of genres and styles” (to borrow from his website, including his own version of “Algae.”

11) Clay – We travel to the Amazon basin for this next unique food item, which is a favorite of both parrots and macaws.  There are two main theories for these birds’ appetites for what is essentially dirt – the most commonly accepted one is that the clay provides these colorful critters with the necessary sodium which doesn’t naturally come with their other dietary choices.  Providing the tuneful backing here is the Christian Alt Rock band Jars of Clay and “Flood”; their first and most successful album was produced than none other than guitarist Adrian Belew, who has performed with such notables like Talking Heads, David Bowie, and King Crimson.

12) Skin – While many humans love a good crispy skin on your typical fried chicken and similar, a number of microscopic creatures love to munch our own dead skin cells in return. However, dining on skin is really taken to extremes by the Caecilian, an amphibian that looks a lot like an earthworm. A mother Caecilian is so devoted to her youngsters, it allows them to munch on her own skin off every three days to provide them nutrition (I can hear you saying “ewww!” even from here.)  Hailing from Eastbourne in the UK, Rory Charles Graham aka Rag’n’bone Man brings the chops here with “Skin”, a single which followed his first big hit, the 2016-released “Human”.

13) Tears – Humans might have a thing for spirits or beer, but for certain moths and butterflies, tears is the drink of choice.  Perhaps the most infamous of these creatures lies in the Madagascar Moth, who actually have the equipment to sip tears from the eyes of sleeping birds (the birds themselves are unaware of the theft taking place.) Once the moth flies away, I suppose you can detect “The Tracks of my Tears”, the classic Motown tune from the immortal Smokey Robinson & The Miracles.

14) Tarantula – Spiders tend to scare many humans, with tarantulas (which are typically larger, more furry, and more menacing looking than other arachnids) often providing the most fear-ridden responses.  However, tarantulas are a surprisingly common item on many other animals’ and insects’ menus, including the Tarantula Hawk.  In this case, the Hawk (which is actually a wasp) thinks of the tarantula as food for its offspring – after paralyzing the tarantula with its sting, the Hawk will drag it to its nest, and then lay an egg on the hapless victim.  The larvae then feasts on the still living tarantula until it succumbs.  Finishing off our playlist here is “Tarantula” by The Aquabats!, the Southern California band that have combined superhero personas with a ska/punk/new wave sound to generate a cult-like fanbase.

 

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