In the Chimphouse, meal time is always a happy time. Growing up, how many of us enjoyed meals at the dinner table with family? We try to emulate this feeling with the chimpanzees when we serve them their home cooked meals. The kitchen is in the centre of our building and the chimps have access to front rooms right in the middle of the action where they can watch the food being prepared by our chef at meal time.
My favourite meal is lunch. It is always a freshly cooked combination of whole grains, veggies, and a vegan protein. What you hear when the chimpanzees enjoy these delicious meals are food grunts, lip smacking and very loud chewing. A misophoniac would not stand a chance in the chimphouse at meal time! What you don’t see are the behind the scenes efforts by our nutritionist Lindsay, who makes sure all the meals are balanced, and our chef Mylène who is so creative and ensures that all the chimpanzees are pleasantly satisfied with their meals.
As Caregivers, we have the fun part, serving our friends with a spoon (or 2!) in hand. Everyone has a unique way of eating. For instance, Rachel is very slow. She chews very well, and slowly before swallowing. I think this is partly to do with the fact that she loves spending time with us caregivers. She reminds us to slow down, sit, and enjoy meals. Jethro, on the other hand, could down an entire serving in one mouthful. He reminds me of a football jock coming home from practice–he doesn’t have time, he wants the food fast! Serving Jethro is trying to find a balance between serving him at the speed he wants the food, and trying not to stuff his cheeks too full! Fun fact: Jethro and I once had a competition of how many strawberries we could fit in our mouths. Needless to say, Jethro won with a whopping 15 strawberries! (Watch the video below as Tanya spends time serving Binky and Jethro.)
As you all know Tatu is well versed in American Sign Language and she uses this to her advantage at lunch time. If she decides she doesn’t want the meal of the day–a decision often made by having a caregiver try the meal and then smelling their breath–she will ask her caregivers for an alternative. We usually find something that will get a pant hoot out of her.
And then you have Miss Sue Ellen. You have to bring a couple of spoons with you because serving Sue can get a little complicated. Sue loves being served, but also misinterprets a lot of things, and we lose a lot of spoons! You have to do things exactly how Sue wants them, and at the speed she wants her next spoonful, or you’re out a spoon. You might get lucky though, if you happen to be a male with a beard. Men with beards can do no wrong by Sue Ellen.
After a full day of serving meals and snacks, dinners at home can feel quite lonely without the sounds of the Chimphouse.
Tanya has been a Caregiver at Fauna for 4 years. She hails from Montreal and studied at McGill University.