Coyote Conundrum



In Suz's Happyland, goats are free to eat my hair.


Urgency Day 313

500 Things Items 185-86: 2 more kitchen tools– a zester and a corer

  • History: Before I discovered microplanes and coring using a knife
  • Value: I prefer my microplane and knife
  • Parting Pain: Zip
  • Un-possessing: Donation or gift

I’m letting you in on a secret: “Udi’s” is a password.

If you are following a gluten-free diet, I really hope no further explanation is required. If you know a gluten-free practitioner and want to make their eyes glaze over in lust, say it: Say “Udi’s.”

Every restrictive diet has one product that makes the whole thing doable. Atkins had bacon and lots of it. Dairy free has So Delicious ice creams. Gluten free has Udi’s bread.

Udi’s bread mimics a loaf of wheat sandwich bread so deliciously, the Self-Contained Unit—a self-described artisanal bread snob—will choose it over gluten-filled options on hand.

Between a well-stocked grocery store and the internet, it’s never been easier to follow an alternative diet. My heart breaks for people with serious allergies who can’t even be in proximity of their triggers. But for people like me, who use nutrition to mitigate the symptoms of other conditions (such as my arthritis), eating conscientiously requires very little additional effort.

In fact, when I see some people struggle with their particular dietary requirements, I wonder if there are other issues, such as a lack of real commitment. When we moved to Naperville, Sam’s friend Pete-o called himself a vegetarian. Under Pete’s eating plan, I think a lot of Americans are vegetarians. He exclusively ate french fries, white bread and desserts.

He has since given up giving up meat.

Meat. I’ve never particularly struggled with being an omnivore. I’ve said it here before, I subscribe to food writer Michael Pollan’s philosophy:

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

That seems the most reasonable expression of moderation I’ve ever encountered. It emphasizes a plant-based diet, but doesn’t forbid meat. Or chocolate, my deal breaker. But meat, though not emphasized, is not demonized, like say high fructose corn syrup.

Two nights ago, my relationship with meat changed.


If you eschew National Geographic specials featuring top-of-the-food-chain antics or were determinedly absent when your high school English  class discussed Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, skip ahead to the all-clear signal,


[FYI: I would be skipping ahead, if it weren’t my story.]

For those still with me, here goes.

Recently, it’s been unseasonably warm in Chicagoland. My brother-in-law John is visiting from Scotland, here to run the binary Chicago Marathon, 10-10-10. We’ve been ruefully observing the heat, trying not to make too many global warming jokes, and enjoying at least one perk: sleeping with the windows wide open.

Two nights ago, a blood-freezing scream woke me out of a deep sleep. Paul and I sat straight up, hearts pounding, listening for whatever would follow. It was quiet for a few seconds, long enough to calculate that it had been some sort of animal and there were no more details to really absorb. Paul and I settled back down, but within moments we were driven out of the bed to the front window. There was some sort of odd, repetitive noise coming from very close by.

My first instinct was to look down the driveway toward the street. Nothing. But Paul, behind me, said, “It’s a coyote.” He was standing in the middle of our front yard, illuminated by the street lamp. And hearing our whispers, the coyote turned his head and looked right up at us. His left front paw held down his prey, as he methodically tore it up and ate it. We had been roused by the crunching of bones and smacking of lips as he ate a bunny 15 feet from our front door.


Just doing his or her job.


I now knew the terrified scream that had awoken us was from a rabbit. We had heard that scream another time, at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Our niece Erin was touring Chicago with her orchestra students from Virginia, and we met them for a walk around the famous landmark. As we wandered through one of the exhibit houses, several boys from her group came running up to us, imploring her to come see the hawk eat the bunny out in front of the exhibit. “No thanks, guys,” she grimaced. Their brief exchange gave me the time to process that the shrill cries I had vaguely been aware of were coming from the rabbit as it was hunted and killed. This is primal sound, of terror and incredulity and helplessness.

Last night, Paul was in the city being support staff for his brother’s marathon run. I was a little apprehensive but pretty confident I wouldn’t have to experience a Wild Kingdom repeat without my Eagle Scout. Apparently, however, our yard is now this coyote’s preferred hunting ground.

Whereas the first incident had taken place at an hour I will concede to these nocturnal activities, 4:00 a.m., the second occurred at 1:20 a.m. It involved neither a bunny nor an hour late enough that I had confidence all the neighbors were bedded down and had retrieved the family pets that have outdoor privileges.

I am fairly certain this time the coyote caught a cat.

I suppose it is an uncomfortable stretch for many people to extrapolate from this probably mundane scene of survival (well, the coyote’s survival anyway) to my subsequent decision to stop eating meat. Here are my dots, connected as best I can:

For me to eat meat, animals have to be slaughtered; by and large, this is not done in a humane way which minimizes the animals’ fear and pain; for myself, I can no longer justify eating in a way that requires this kind of suffering. I’ve heard the death screams. They’re awful.

I hold absolutely no grudge against the coyote. Zip zilch nada. And don’t worry, I’m not proselytizing. From start to finish, this is personal.


So there it is. Like I said, it’s never been easier to follow alternative eating plans, and I’ve already successfully eliminated much dairy and all gluten from my diet. From now on, though you’ll find a lot of delicious ingredients on my Udi’s, my BLTs will be made using “Smart Bacon.” That really is the name for vegan bacon. Smart bacon.

For Atkinites and vegetarians, it all comes down to bacon.

Just one more thing: I have my niece Laura to thank for her timely recommendation of Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet. If making these changes interests you at all, this is a much better source of information and recipes than the celebrity association would typically suggest. Thanks, Laura.


7 Responses to “Coyote Conundrum”

  1. melanie Says:

    You’re right – it does come down to bacon. Nicely said.

  2. Sydney Says:

    Anthony Bourdain calls bacon “the gateway protein.”

  3. kara Says:

    Keep me posted on how the no-meat diet goes. I will only eat meat from local, small farms. Those animals seem to live a pretty good, albeit short, life.

    btw, go easy on the soy-products unless they are fermented:

  4. sthibeault Says:

    Happy to keep you posted. I don’t imagine the maintenance will be as hard as the moment that motivated me was.
    I’ve read some about soy. Thanks for the heads up!

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