To Avoid Starvation, and to Procreate

Being of an inherently inquisitive nature and surrounded, as I am, by every imaginable philosophical position — an atheist father, a recovering Catholic mother with Taoist leanings, Evangelical in-laws, Jewish and agnostic and pagan friends, yogis and rednecks — I spend a fair amount of time trying to figure things out.

A neighbor

A neighbor

Being also surrounded, as I am, by beautiful nature, my musings are often influenced by the wild. One recent morning while running in the state park, I happened past some coyote scat. Coyote scat, for those unfamiliar with the stuff, is an amalgam of fruit stones, tiny seeds, light colors and dark colors, presumably some meatstuff.

This got me thinking of the life of the coyote — and of the deer, rabbits, bobcats, squirrels and other creatures I see out in the woods — which I concluded really boiled down to two things: not starving, and procreating. Marginally predators, coyotes spend their days wandering around eating whatever they find — insects, lizards, ground squirrels, carrion, figs and pomegranates, acorns, seeds, leaves. And then they look for another coyote of the opposite sex with whom to procreate. They howl madly, go to sleep, wake up and do it all over again.

It’s what humans once did.

In some senses, it’s what we still do. Except we go to jobs all day to earn money to then go to restaurants and bars and Whole Foods to buy our food and hopefully meet someone to procreate with.

Coyote droppings

Coyote droppings

And in another way, it’s what I do when I’m cooking. Keeping from starving, obviously, but also procreating. Except by procreate, I mean something different than what you may be thinking — not cooking as a means to seducing women, which I’ll fess up to in my past. “Procreation” obviously refers to making love and creating new life. But at it’s core, it is something more — the creative impulse, the desire to bring something into existence out of nothing… the God spark.

It’s no accident that when someone has unique ideas or a predilection for making things artistic or imaginative, we call them “creative”. They are driven by an impulse to make something new — to create. I believe it is essentially the same energy that compels us to mate. A core elemental drive as old as time, the reason we are here, our small humble efforts in birthing something to be like God.

This can translate into many different things. People have always commented that I am a “Renaissance man,” that I do so many different things. And while it is true that I express myself in many ways — writing, painting, music, food — I always say that I only do one thing, and just use a number of different tools.

Let’s consider food since this is, after all, primarily a food blog. In terms of keeping from starving, I could be like the deer, chewing grass all day, finding a shady place to rest in the afternoon, mating at twilight, and avoiding the mountain lions in between all that.  I could cook simple dinners and nourished my and my family’s physical bodies. But instead, unable to leave well enough alone, I create.

The other day, we were visiting my wife’s brother, his wife and their new 9-day-old son. They had that exhausted look of new first-time parents, and seeing them bristle at our suggestion we all go out to lunch, I offered to cook. “Oh gosh,” they said, “That would be lovely. But there might not be much to cook with in there.” But where they felt apprehension, I felt the thrill of possibility. The hardest part was narrowing the infinite directions I could go.

Thirty minutes later, we had an heirloom tomato, squash blossom and pasta salad and English cheddar sourdough grilled cheese sandwiches. I had soothed the creative impulse, and could rest until dinner.

With the seductive days of my youth well behind me, I now go about my life gathering food for my flesh-and-blood children, and channeling my procreational drive into the creation of these other “children” — a well-executed poem, painting or song, or a fresh, seasonal, carefully plated meal. And like the coyotes all around me, get up the next morning and do it all over again.

19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mathew Tekulsky
    Jul 29, 2014 @ 00:30:21

    Sean, you are so talented.

    Mathew Tekulsky 310-962-5653

    Mathew Tekulsky is the author Backyard Bird Photography (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014). TheRoger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History will exhibit his backyard birdimages from January 13 through March 8, 2015.


  2. Alma Shin
    Jul 29, 2014 @ 01:11:24

    I love your blog. I just recently started following you and I think you are really talented, as Mathew said. Even though my technique is lacking I love food and this blog just hits the spot for me. Thank you for this awesome blog 😀


  3. Michelle
    Jul 29, 2014 @ 01:52:46

    OK, this is probably the world’s only food blog featuring a photo of coyote scat. But somehow you made it work. 🙂


  4. Andrea Cleall
    Jul 29, 2014 @ 03:03:38

    That was exquisite, and makes me think something in me is in you, I spent 5 hours Saturday making meals from a handful of ingredients she can digest into meals for Laura that hopefully encourage her to eat. The Dalai Lama says kindness is his religion. Perhaps cooking is ours.


  5. pal-O
    Jul 29, 2014 @ 03:54:31

    I’m just glad there wasn’t a recipe for Coyote scat which, as I scrolled through before reading all except for the entry paragraph, was a slight but–thankfully–unfounded fear!


  6. Suzanna
    Jul 29, 2014 @ 04:15:03

    Double the comments on the coyote scat! ha!
    Thanks for being you, Seanie, and doing all the wonderful things you do so wonderfully!


  7. JC Williams
    Aug 05, 2014 @ 04:06:09

    My hat’s off to anyone who can link coyote scat with poetry, painting and music. Double rations of Pliny the Elder to you!!!


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