Important to dining, especially now, is tipping. Thelonious, I’ll admit, had always been a poor tipper. Then one evening I watched as he carried over a mysterious wad of leaves and bits of flowers, things not available near my porch, and left them at the table. For me? Did he leave these special things for me? I considered it an excellent tip.
Thelonious Munk comes every day now. Sometimes he sits at the table, waiting for me. He is the diner critiquing my meals; I am the chef and the server, waiting for positive reviews. I switch up the menu, making sure not to overfeed, as chipmunks are hoarders and can eat to their detriment. I watch like a new parent introducing foods to a baby, cataloging likes and dislikes. Google be damned, Thelonious doesn’t dig mushrooms, fresh or dried, crimini or enoki (I tried). He loves blueberries and hates peanuts and yellow bell peppers. He pushes cabbage to the side.
Missing my own restaurant experiences, I try to give them to Thelonious. One day, reminiscing on my sushi habit (a frequent writing subject), I turned the table into a sushi counter. I made a tray from modeling clay. I took individual grains of rice and tweezered them atop pieces of carrot, peach skins, mango, and seaweed with grated ginger and “wasabi” made from a sassafras leaf. I fashioned itty-bitty chopsticks from stems of the aforementioned scallions. It was definitely wabi sabi—perfectly imperfect.
Thelonious devoured pizza from a crust of almond flour topped with smashed raspberry and slivered almond “cheese.” I made a Detroit version too, and placed the pizzas on a stand made from a Champagne cage. He loved the accompanying salad of garden herbs and nut “croutons.” It took a lot of trial and error to create tiny taco shells, but once I did, he seemed to marvel at them before eating them with his paws, just like a person would. The chips and guac disappeared too. I created a pretzel recipe without the salt, so as not to damage little kidneys. Making the teeny twists was especially tedious, but after about 10 attempts and a few more tries baking them at various temperatures, my improvised recipe worked: Munk ate them in his own personal beer garden, and I, too, was soulfully satiated.
Later, with the help of my husband, I built a full miniature bar with stools covered in scraps of leather: the Peanut Club. Thelonious sat anxiously on the stoop as we worked, watching and waiting to eventually steal the nut bowl as I positioned mini bottles of booze, a cocktail shaker, and bev naps. Once it was complete, he took his place on a stool for a while before opting to be bartender and moving behind the counter. And after a spell at the bar, he went to his table ready for the next dinner experience. I used to do this too.