“Birding” Brings Avian Alimentary Process to Hip New Heights
You’d barely notice Mama Bird’s Cafe if you didn’t already know what to look for. Tucked in the back corner of a parking lot in Echo Park, next to a launderette, a cigarette stand, and something called “Dr. Funsicle’s Mystery Shop of Edu-tainment,” is a small room containing four elegantly dressed tables. There’s a sign in the window with hand-crafted lettering simply spelling out the abbreviated “MBC,” but the place doesn’t have to advertise. Tables are by reservation only, and word is getting out in celebrity circles. James Franco’s third cousin Arlen Franco is a regular. Tato Shots frontman Brodus Jackson makes sure to stop in at least once a week. There’ve even been a few sightings of Mynnervah lately–teen pop’s new queen can’t help but gush about the latest daily special, a kale-lime tofu mole that Mama Bird’s refers to as “Kalitomo.”
Key to the appeal of Mama Bird’s is the new fusion cuisine style known as “birding,” inspired by the unique way celebrities like Alicia Silverstone have been known to feed their children, in which the food is pre-chewed and either re-plated or “birded” directly into a customer’s mouth by a well-trained wait-staff. There’s no direct mouth-to-mouth contact, except when it comes to “hummingbirding” the artisanal teas brewed directly from the can. This requires signing a form of affirmative consent, though it’s mostly a formality–the customers and staff alike swear there’s nothing erotic or harassing about it.
“A lot of these people are really busy, ducking in between media events or film shoots, and they just don’t have the time to chew their food properly,” says head chef Rach’elle Spiderhawk, a cheery, slim young lady of indeterminate ethnicity sporting five nose rings. “So I thought, ‘Why don’t we do it for them?’ People who eat too fast are in more serious choking danger than they realize, and we can take away that anxiety, so they’re free to enjoy the flavors.” She adds that the addition of outside saliva has been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of tooth decay, noting “We’ve seen the benefits to famous children fed in this manner. It doesn’t get more wholesome than a mother-to-child process.”
The price reflects this “extra service.” While something as simple as a “Snowball Seashell” (raw egg, lemon juice, and oysters) is an affordable $15, the Prime Hash (prime rib, re-mashed potatoes, and creamed spinach all chewed up together) can run $60 or more, depending on the market price of grass-fed beef that day. It’s a premium most of Mama Bird’s customers say is worth it.
“Sometimes, when I’m busy shooting my new series Lion and the Sand, I will literally forget to bring my dentures!” laughs veteran character actor Wallace Bennington. “Mama Bird’s has saved my ass and spared my appetite more times than I can count.”
The birding trend is spreading–a New York establishment named “Wyrmz” is set to open in Red Hook later this year. But Spiderhawk isn’t concerned about the competition.
“I’ve already been asked to cater eight Sweet Sixteen parties this week,” she says. “The more, the merrier!” She’s working on a cookbook, an app, and is in the early stages of negotiating for a Food Network show co starring Guy Fieri. “Guy loves the idea of swallowing without chewing first,” she notes, “and it’s just a matter of coordinating our schedules and his shaving so I can bird him without rug-burning myself, you know?” She laughs long and loud. “We’re going to call the show Flipping the Bird.”