Birds for breakfast

By Alan Krakauer

Breakfast cockatoo
Breakfast cockatoo by Alan Krakauer

The past year of Covid-19 saw folks change how they relate to nature. Like many of you, my wife and I enjoyed a bit of a silver lining by getting reacquainted with our local wildlife. Attendance in nearby parks soared as people sought freedom and relief in the outdoors. When one can’t get outside to scratch this itch, sometimes biophilia can find a strange and creative outlet. For us, it changed how we have breakfast!

I present to you: Fruit Art!

When lockdown began last March, we decided to try eating healthier by making oatmeal every morning. Instead of just throwing some pieces of fruit into the pot, I started decorating the oats to lighten the mood as we grappled with the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Some of the inspiration came from my father-in-law: We’d laughed out loud at the whimsical mandarin, apple, and banana sections he arranged into faces for breakfast. I also channeled my inner Charley Harper to leverage the simple geometric shapes that a piece of fruit can yield in a few quick cuts. As I became more familiar with this organic ephemeral art medium, I took on the challenge to make animal-inspired designs. Naturally this included a lot of birds. Here’s a selection of our bird-related breakfast art from the past 14 months.

Northern Cardinal by Alan Krakauer
Northern Cardinal in the style of Charley Harper, by Alan Krakauer

Some were local species.

Bewick's Wren in oatmeal by Alan Krakauer
Bewick’s Wren for breakfast by Alan Krakauer
Wild Turkey in oatmeal by Alan Krakauer
Wild Turkey for breakfast by Alan Krakauer
California Quail in oatmeal
California Quail by Alan Krakauer
Breakfast woodpecker by Alan Krakauer
Pileated (?) woodpecker by Alan Krakauer

Some were from farther afield.

Prairie chicken or sharp-tailed grouse in oatmeal
Prairie chicken or Sharp-tailed Grouse by Alan Krakauer
Breakfast penguin by Alan Krakauer
Penguin, definitely in the style of Charley Harper, by Alan Krakauer
Ostrich from banans in oatmeal
Ostrich for breakfast by Alan Krakauer

How many ways can you make an owl?

Breakfast Barn Owl by Alan Krakauer
Breakfast Barn Owl by Alan Krakauer
Breakfast owl by Alan Krakauer
Great Horned Owl by Alan Krakauer
owl in oatmeal
Another Great Horned Owl by Alan Krakauer
Breakfast owl by Alan Krakauer
Yet another Great Horned Owl by Alan Krakauer

A couple of bonus bowls.

Breakfast kiwi bird
A kiwi, obviously, by Alan Krakauer
Birds made of pears in oatmeal
“Birbs,” unknown species, by Alan Krakauer

Curious about our recipe? We use steel-cut oats and typically add apple (whatever isn’t needed for the design), ground cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Any other extra bits of fruit are chopped and added to the bottom of the bowls before we spoon in the cooked oats. Occasionally we add a splash of milk, but no extra salt, sugar, or butter.

I’d like to add that we are sensitive to the fact that many people confront food insecurity. Nothing we make is just for show – everything is part of our normal breakfast and we slice up the fruit while the oats cook. Once assembled, it is a quick cell phone snap and then we eat it! The main audience is still just the two of us, although after posting photos on social media, feedback has come in from all over the world. We’ve shared more than 200 designs so far!

Alan Krakauer is a biologist and photographer living in Richmond on the edge of Wildcat Canyon. He is broadly interested in evolution, ecology, and natural history. Most of his research has focused on the behavioral ecology of birds. To learn more about Alan’s life and work, you can go to his website. Alan also has a nature photography site Alan Krakauer Photography, complete with his lovely photographs.