We want our bears to be really plump before they go into hibernation, and this fall, they weren’t plump enough for our comfort. Among other girth-widening foods, they were only partially eating their sweet potatoes. Our animal caretakers observed that Teton Totem was refusing his cold oatmeal– he wanted it warmed, preferably with syrup. He also prefers his eggs scrambled.(As an elderly bear, we tend to indulge him). This led Dante to ask Heather if perhaps they would prefer the sweet potatoes cooked? They can’t get them cooked in the wild, but who’s to say they wouldn’t if they could? After all, there are stories of wolves coming up to lone outdoorsmen in the wild who were roasting their meat and asking for some.
Heather, coming from a food and beverage background, thought just cooking them wasn’t enough. Knowing our bears’ weakness for pies of any sort, she decided to make some sweet potato pies for them, complete with syrup and whipped cream. (They usually lick off the cream first). She wrangled Jordan, her executive chef husband, into helping, offering her services as a sous chef.
Given that bears are rather large and small pies would be a travesty, they cooked three large commercial pots full of sweet potatoes in their tiny kitchen filled with 6’3”Jordan, Heather, and their dog Bridger, a golden retriever who loves sweet potatoes and sat supervising, apparently assuming this was all for him.
“Where is the cooking space for us?” Jordan complained goodnaturedly.
There was an intense conversation between Heather and her husband: “How do we adapt these recipes for bears? Do we add sugar? Do we fill the pie crusts and then bake them or do we assemble them so the crusts aren’t soggy and fall apart when we serve them? Should we put marshmallows on top and make it like a yam dish?” Jordan wondered if he should peel the potatoes first. Heather said “No.” Then he worried that once they were cooked and cut up, the peels would hang off, offending his chef’s sense of perfection. “This looks like a mess!” Heather had to remind him that the bears probably wouldn’t notice and the skins have a lot of vitamins.
Baking for bears is complicated.
In any case, the next day, vats of sweet potatoes (cooked just so, peels and all), along with pie crusts, whipped cream, and syrup arrived in our animal kitchen. They were assembled with care. They were brought to each bear. They were eaten.
Now that Heather and Jordan know how to make sweet potato pies for our bears, will they have to make them every week? And what about the human employees? Sigh. Sometimes the best of intentions lead to more pie-making.