The Tragedy of Malnourished Cookie Monsters

[From the Vesperfire News Wire:]

A human that eats cookies all the time is a glutton. But a cookie monster that eats cookies all the time is just being a cookie monster.

– Dr. Charles Johanson of the Monster Health Institute

Cookie monster promoting fruit on TV

“The” Cookie Monster (with a singing banana) promoting fruit consumption on Sesame Street.

A well intentioned effort to promote a better diet for human children has had unintended and sometimes tragic consequences for cookie monsters everywhere. The children’s program Sesame Street has had their well-known cookie monster (whom they often call simply “The” Cookie Monster) promote moderation with regard to sweets and encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables. They’ve even replaced his famous song “C is for Cookie” with a new song, “Cookie Is A Sometime Food”.

“That’s great advice for human kids, but unfortunately, coming from the mouth of the famous Sesame Street Cookie Monster, it’s led many people to believe that it’s also appropriate for cookie monsters themselves. And that’s simply not true,” Dr. Charles Johanson of the Monster Health Institute told me in a recent interview.

Just as vegetarian cat owners have sometimes endangered their cats’ health by putting them on a vegetarian diet, some cookie monster fanciers have attempted to feed their furry friends a healthy human diet, a diet that is anything but healthy for cookie monsters.

“Cookie monsters are obligate dulcivores; they must consume large quantities of simple sugars to survive,” Dr. Johanson asserted. “Highly refined grains and hydrogenated fats are also crucial components of their diet.”

Raw fruit is fine as an occasional adjunct to a cookie monster’s diet, Dr. Johanson conceded, especially the higher glycemic index fruits such as grapes, melons, and (non-talking) bananas. But the high fiber content of some other fruits can be hard on the simple digestive tract of cookie monsters. (Cookie monsters have relatively short small intestines, though their insulin producing pancreas can be as large as a watermelon.) “And though they can tolerate ingesting a huge variety of substances, they derive no nutritional value whatsoever from vegetables.”

Malnourished Cookie Monster on IV

A badly malnourished cookie monster receiving an intravenous infusion of high fructose corn syrup.

Dr. Johanson took me into the institute’s clinical ward, to show me directly what long term ingestion of a human diet can do to cookie monsters. The institute handles only serious cases, those beyond the skills of local clinics to treat, currently a baker’s dozen. The ward was quiet as we approached, demonstrating how ill these cookie monsters were. “Cookie monsters are naturally boisterous. Thirteen in one place should be absolute bedlam.”

The first patient (shown in the photo) was the most serious case. This cookie monster was slightly thin though not actually emaciated. He was listless, barely able to open his mouth to wheeze “Cookie!”, much less gobble one. His fur was dulled, almost grey in patches, and the whites of his eyes showed a mild jaundice. (Cookie monster’s livers need to process chocolate regularly to remain healthy.)

“What’s really heart-breaking to see are his aligned pupils. That’s a sign of a very sick cookie monster,” Dr. Johanson informed me sadly. Despite an emergency intravenous infusion of high fructose corn syrup with added trans-fats, this cookie monster’s prognosis is poor.

Other cookie monsters in the clinic were better, but most showed the ravages of prolonged sweets deprivation. But Dr. Johanson smiled as the characteristic “COOKIE! Om nom nom nom nom nom!” sound came from a nearby bed. “He’s almost ready to go home.” But the doctor fears that the bed soon will be filled again by another cookie monster misfed by well meaning but misinformed humans.

Cookie deprived Cookie Monster attacks

A sweets-deprived cookie monster attacks a person who offered him broccoli.

Of course, many cookie monsters instinctively reject vegetables and similar foods as unnatural for them, becoming quite irritable when confronted with such a diet. Poorly disciplined adult male cookie monsters can even become violent when offered vegetables instead of cookies, cakes, or candies (see photo). “In fact,” Dr. Johanson told us, “some people find their reactions amusing and will even restrain hungry cookie monsters and taunt them with cookies. Unfortunately, anti-cruelty laws for monsters have lagged far behind those for animals.”

Despite the upsurge in cookie monster malnutrition cases, Dr. Johanson doesn’t blame the Sesame Street producers; he knows that human obesity and its related health issues are rapidly growing into a crisis. “A cookie monster’s diet is no healthier for a human than a human’s diet is for a cookie monster. And a quick glance around any mall in America will tell you that we have far more humans eating like cookie monsters than vice versa.”

Dr. Johanson just wants to get the word out to the cookie monster community that “cookies are a sometimes food — for people”, but they’re always right for a cookie monster.

Healthy Cookie Monster
A Healthy, Happy Cookie Monster

Counting Sheep

I’ve recently had trouble falling asleep at a regular time every night.  I blame Sesame Street.

The canonical method of falling asleep is to count imaginary sheep.  In one Sesame Street sketch, Bert explains this method to Ernie when Ernie is keeping Bert awake because Ernie can’t sleep.  However, Ernie’s imagination is so vivid that Bert can hear the sheep baaing as they pass overhead.  Then Ernie, missing the point (as usual), decides that counting sheep is boring and decides to count fire engines instead.  The blaring sirens send Bert leaping out of bed in panic and protest.  Ernie promises to count balloons then — balloons are quiet, right? — but Ernie imagines an inflating balloon, which bursts with a wall-rattling boom.

I saw this sketch repeatedly as a child.  Now every time I try to count sheep, I hear fire engine sirens and exploding balloons instead.  I can’t fall asleep with such a din any more than Bert could.

I also blame my friend Ian.  His parents raise sheep in rural Michigan.  Counting imaginary sheep just reminds me of his tales of the antics of real sheep.  This in turn leads me to recall his family’s famous Sheep Castration Parties (I kid you not.) and the techniques employed there.  The “bricks method” in particular evokes a rather visceral reaction.  It’s difficult to fall asleep in the instinctive sympathetic “testicle protection crouch”.

Warner Brothers’ cartoons must certainly share some blame as well.  When I do actually manage to imagine sheep, they often get whisked away in mid-count with a suspicious ‘Zing!’ by “Ralph Wolf” (who wasn’t fooling anyone with that red nose; we all know it was just Wile E. Coyote.).  I’d almost rather let him have them though, because Sam Sheep Dog makes a lot of noise beating the Coyote when he catches him, interrupted only by their shift change whistle, which always blows just as I’m finally nodding off.

Some of you may be saying, “You don’t need to count sheep to fall asleep.”  That’s quite true.  Counting llamas is a big improvement over sheep in many ways.  They can be trained not to kick or spit, they don’t bring unpleasant veterinary stories to mind, and they can handle coyotes on their own.  (They’re actually used to guard sheep from predators.)  However, their braying sometimes bothered my neighbors — my imagination is nearly as vivid as Ernie’s.

I used to read myself to sleep every night, but I decided that was a bad habit.  I would stay up too late with new books, I strained my eyes, and I nearly smothered when I dozed off under a copy of War and Peace.  Also, reading was becoming a Pavlovian trigger for sleep.  Reading a book in two page chunks separated by naps isn’t very efficient, especially when you’re reading a recipe in a cookbook while making dinner.

Thus I have turned to animal enumeration methods.  I’m sure I can eventually find some sufficiently placid animal to count.  A friend suggested meditation exercises to clear my mind of all these associations, but really, if I was capable of that, then counting sheep would work in the first place!

I would write more, but it’s time to go to bed.  I can hear the sirens approaching already.