Remember that old “Northern Exposure” episode where everyone in town was trying to outdo each other with the number of calories they could consume in one meal? AND bragging about how much weight they’d GAINED as winter set in?
I watched that episode with disbelief and–yes–a trace of envy. Or maybe a lot of envy. Eat what you want, as much as you want, gain weight, and you’re the winner? Not in my world.
Still, none of us should feel guilty about that sudden urge for comfort food that attacks us this time of year even if, with our lethargic lifestyles, we shouldn’t respond. Nature wants us to bulk up for what used to be the lean months of the year, when food was scarce, and frigid temps made calorie loading important.
It may not apply to us any more, but it still applies to the critters out there. Some handle it by hibernating, some–like those pesky squirrels in my bird feeder–chunk up every fall and emerge thin and scruffy in the spring–and some head for warmer climes.
Some of the birds, though, stick around, and they’re the ones for whom comfort food is still vitally important. That’s why, at our house, we don’t stop feeding in the winter, and we add suet to the menu.
Last year, I got tired of paying relatively high prices for that suet, especially remembering the days when grocery stores gave it away. And I was never sure about the content of the store-bought suet balls. Then, I found a great recipe for homemade suet recommended by someone who works at Wild Birds Unlimited, who said bird suet should be filled with fat rather than sugars and grains. Her solution is simple and not expensive and I’ve been doing it ever since:
2 cups shelled, unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup raisins
2 to 3 tablespoons cornmeal
Process the peanuts in a food processor until they look like peanut butter, add the raisins and process for another minute, then add the cornmeal and process a bit more. Press the results into a mold. I use those square, sandwich-sized Zip-Loc boxes. Pop them in the freezer, and when they’re solid, they fit perfectly into one of those small, square, wire suet feeders you can buy just about anywhere. I make two the first time, and then I always have one ready to go when the feeder empties. And it does, regularly.
Have at it, little birds. If I can’t, I’m glad you can, and you’re fun to watch.