Formicavore home cooking

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro strip (Wayno’s title: “Dietary Restrictions”), with a culinary misstep:

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

There’s a lot to talk about here: the gendering of the two characters in #1; the Bizarro theme of anteaters and food; fire ants; hot and spicy food; the art of anteaters (it’s not just Bizarro).

Gendered anteaters. So far, everyone who’s commented on #1 has assumed that the L anteater, the speaker, is female; and that the R anteater, the one afflicted by the fire ants, is male — probably because L is the server and R the served, and those are roles conventionally assigned to female and male, respectively, in our society. (L and R might be anteaters, but they are also a pair of people having a meal together; this is the sort of cartoon where things exist in two worlds at once.)

But Wayno has also crafted his depictions of L and R to gender them physically. R is larger, bulkier than L; in humans, the mean size for males is significantly greater than the mean for females, although there’s a lot of overlap — but in the land of cartoons, everything is exaggerated. (Note from Wikipedia on anteaters: “Adult males are slightly larger and more muscular than females, and have wider heads and necks. Visual sex determination can, however, be difficult”.) R also has thicker and darker fur than L — and tousled, masculine (human) hair.

Wayno didn’t use the standard cartoonist’s convention of marking female creatures by giving them long eyelashes, choosing instead to use subtler indicators.

(Since I am who I am, I point out that L and R could be gay males, differing noticeably in size and taking different roles in meal preparation — just as my man Jacques and I did: he was significantly taller and stronger than me; I was the cook, he the clean-up crew; I was even the fan of spicy food, Jacques the very wary one. But the gay male interpretation wouldn’t occur to most people.)

Anteaters feeding. In the real world, just for reference. From the Wikipedia article:

Anteaters are specialized to feed on small insects, with each anteater species having its own insect preferences: small species are specialized on arboreal insects living on small branches, while large species can penetrate the hard covering of the nests of terrestrial insects. To avoid the jaws, sting, and other defences of the invertebrates, anteaters have adopted the feeding strategy of licking up large numbers of ants and termites as quickly as possible — an anteater normally spends about a minute at a nest before moving on to another — and a giant anteater has to visit up to 200 nests per day to consume the thousands of insects it needs to satisfy its caloric requirements.

The anteater’s tongue is covered with thousands of tiny hooks called filiform papillae which are used to hold the insects together with large amounts of saliva. Swallowing and the movement of the tongue are aided by side-to-side movements of the jaws. The tongue is attached to the sternum and moves very quickly, flicking 150 times per minute. The anteater’s stomach, similar to a bird’s gizzard, has hardened folds and uses strong contractions to grind the insects, a digestive process assisted by small amounts of ingested sand and dirt.

Anteaters and food in Bizarro. Except for the ant thing, the characters in Bizarro‘s formicavore cartoons act like people; it’s the incorporation of their fixation on eating ants that makes the cartoons so funny. Previously on this blog:

— in my 5/29/18 posting “Chez Le Fourmilier”, about a restaurant catering to anteaters:


A strenuous exercise in cartoon understanding: you need to be familiar with a certain kind of (seafood) restaurant, and to recognize both anteaters and a children’s educational toy known as an ant farm. And then to understand that the cartoon embodies a metaphorical translation from a seafood restaurant world to an anteater world.

— in my 3/27/20 posting “Chez Le Fourmilier II”, in which “The chef of Chez Le Fourmilier brings an ant farm to the table for the delectation of an enthusiastic diner wearing an ant bib”:


Elsewhere in my formicavore postings, it’s mostly about anteaters as creatures (including similar creatures like pangolins), but there are a number about the cartoon versions (including the anteater of the BC strip and its ZOT).

Fire ants. #1 isn’t just about ants; it’s about, wow, fire ants. In my 3/23/18 posting “Gayupid’s Arrow: We are everywhere, and now you are too”, see the section on Solenopsis invicta, the red imported fire ant (RIFA):


Hot and spicy food. From NOAD on the adj. hot:

2 (of food) containing or consisting of pungent spices or peppers which produce a burning sensation when tasted: a very hot dish cooked with green chili.

The sensation of peppery hotness in food is in fact that of tolerable, even enjoyable, pain: a sharp pain similar to (but less extreme than) the pain of high heat, of piercing (including by the spines of some plants, especially cactuses), or of a sting (involving injection of a toxin): an insect sting (especially from an ant, bee, or wasp), a jellyfish sting, or contact with the stinging hairs of some plants, in particular the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).

Bonus: anteater art (other than Bizarro). In particular, from the Professor X site (“A curated collection of Internet articles, original writing, and guest writers about art history and education”) on 10/8/14:

(#5) A 1969 photo by an unknown photographer of [Spanish surrealist artist] Salvador Dali walking his anteater in Paris as he comes out of the subway

With Dali, pretty much everything he did in public was a piece of (performance) art. And Dali had something of a fixation on ants (and anteaters).

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