Monday, February 7, 2011

Make the orangutan cookie and save trees

Libby Lawson of the Seattle zoo shows off my orangutan cookie.      
Photo by Shawn Thompson

Libby Lawson, a sprightly orangutan keeper at the zoo in Seattle, officially tasted my first batch of rain-forest friendly orangutan cookies.

The idea was to create a cookie that promotes the protection of the rain forest habitat of orangutans and uses ingredients familiar to orangutans. The result is the "orangunookie," which I hope doesn't sound sexually suggestive.

Libby told me she likes sugar -- although the orangutans at the Seattle zoo get a safe and sensible sugar substitute in their juice and yogurt.

The orangunookie is "very good," Libby said - and I know that orangutan keepers have to be straightforward and honest to deal with orangutans. "I found it very satisfying," she said, "and I have a real sweet tooth. The cookie seems only a little sweet and is not overly nutty." Libby liked the colour I got for  my "green" cookie by using green food colouring.

Speaking of food, it was feeding time when I arrived at the zoo and Libby took me to lunch with the orangutans. I watched the massive orangutan Towan daintily using his teeth to pick even the last bit of orange out of the rind.

Towan is 43 years old in 2011 and 297 pounds. He likes to paint. In fact, he pretty much gets consumed by it. He's an experimental artist with no formal training and has combined coloured pen and chalk. I was with him and Libby a few weeks ago watching Towan do his art work. He has great concentration.

Libby told me a story about how compassionate and gentle Towan is. One time a young possum fell inside the orangutan enclosure and when Towan tried to pick it up, it bit him. But Towan was too good natured to retaliate. He just held the possum to avoid being bitten and later signaled to Libby that she could retrieve the possum.

As the dominant male, the protocol is to feed Towan first. Then Libby went to feed the others, including Towan's twin sister, Chinta, who weighs considerably less than her brother at 168 pounds. Although she likes to spit at people and squirts water at them when they turn their backs, she also likes to socialize with folks and has a regular spot next to the glass at the zoo where she can interact with we human apes.

While the orangutans were being fed, I noticed that Libby was playing NPR jazz for them, a wise choice. The jazz and the sound of artificial waterfalls constructed at the zoo help screen out the distraction of human sounds.

Here's my recipe for the green orangutan cookie.

You need one cup of raw cashews, 1/4 cup of skim milk, 3/4 cup of sugar, one egg, 1 tsp of vanilla extract, 1 cup of shredded coconut, 2 tsp of coconut flavour, one cup of flour, 1/4 tsp baking soda. 1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg, 1/2 a cup of Sun Maid Tropical Trio dried fruit (pineapple, papaya and mango) and a dash of salt. Crush the nuts into different sizes from grains to bits with a pestle and add the milk. Mix with the sugar, egg, coconut flavour and vanilla. Put in the flour, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Add 1/8 tsp green food colouring. Add dried fruit and shredded coconut. Put spoon- sized dollops on a cookie sheet and flatten with a wetted fork. Add a few small pieces of dried fruit for garnish to the top. Bake at 350 F for about 15 minutes. Makes 18 average-sized cookies with crispy brown bottoms and textured, chewy insides.

When you serve the orangunookie, make sure that you explain in a lightly serious tone that it is made to make friends with orangutans by being a little nutty, a little fruity and without palm oil. The forests of the orangutan in Borneo and Sumatra are cut down for palm oil plantations.

Let me know how you like the cookies
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