Monday, March 5, 2012

• The Rodent Recipe Challenge

I've owned hamsters for more than seven years. I love the little guys. So when Inky the Hamster Mommy announced the Rodent Recipe Challenge, I was game. Pasta was the ingredient for February.

I found medium shells in the cupboard. For myself, macaroni and cheese. For my hamster, Maggie, I decided to stuff a shell with walnut and melted Parmesan cheese. How hard could that be?

As I discovered, it was a bit tricky.

I thought of pasta as being warm, but a single piece cools and dries quickly. When I microwaved the shell so it would melt the cheese, the heat turned it the color of creme bruleé—not a good hue. I laid pieces of walnut in the middle of the shell, then covered them with strips of Parmesan. The cheese drooped but didn't melt. I squeezed the crusty, mushy mound with a toothpick, put it in the refrigerator, and silently thanked the universe I wasn't competing on Top Chef.

At 11:00 p.m., when Maggie usually awakes, I took the dried brownish shell out of the fridge to bring it to room temperature. Would he eat it? (Yes, despite his name, Maggie is a boy.) He ignored the concoction for several minutes, and then . . . he picked it up and began to nibble.

Success! I knew Maggie liked walnuts and cheese, but feared the pasta, which I suspect had the texture and taste of cardboard, would repel him. Leftovers don't lie. When he stepped away and commenced his after-dinner grooming, a ragged, brown form remained. The walnuts and cheese were history, but he rejected most of the pasta.

And did you know that a pasta box makes a great hamster toy?

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