Tuesday, 3 December 2019

turkey lurkey

Catching up on some post-Thanksgiving podcast listening, we were delighted to learn of the existence of priceless collaboration between Susan J Vitucci and Henry Krieger in their silly and engaging operetta Love’s Fowl that recounts the continuing adventures of Henny Penny, also known as Chicken Little or by her stage diva name, La Pulcina Piccola—but through the filter of opera buffa, with an impressive, classically informed score and libretto sung in Italian, featured in a poultry-themed left-overs episode of This American Life.
Our hero has graduated from her initial hysterical though determined mission (despite leaping to the wrong conclusion, her perseverance is what saved her life whereas her companions all dawdled and became Foxy Loxy’s meal—those without scruples always ready and willing to take advantage of panic and confusion) to warn the King that the sky is falling to face some of the more vexing but equally universal challenges of fairy stories and folklore (the familiar, initial trope is classified as Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 20c but together, we run the entire gamut), a cumulative story like the original premise it begins with, repetitious in some way but always advancing, including swashing-buckling on the high seas, statecraft and romantic liaisons.

Friday, 1 November 2019

pilzfund ii

Having had less success up until this point and a bit envious of neighbours who return after foraging with mushrooms by the crateload, H and I went exploring in the forest again and had some fortune gathering some edible specimens.
Careful to collect discriminately and not spoil the woodland ecology (responsible, surgical removal affords the chance for the fruiting body to regrow) and more careful research so as not to end up poisoning ourselves, we were able to identify, along with the usual fare, Goldrรถhrling (Suillus grevillea, the larch bolete—for the root of the tree it is often found), Steinpilze (previously) and Birkenpilze (Leccinum sabrum, the birch bolete) mostly.
Though by no means is this rule-of-thumb universal or not without exceptions but broadly, mushrooms with stalks and a spongy, porous underside of its cap, called boletes, literally from the Latin for edible mushroom—as opposed to gills underneath—can signify that it is safe for human consumption.  Please, however, consult the experts before trying to harvest wild mushrooms and know how to contact poison-control, just in case.

We were pretty selective and not more adventurous than is advisable and once H sautรฉed the mushrooms, that bucket reduced down to a small but very flavourful portion.

Sunday, 13 October 2019


H and I went foraging for mushrooms recently and though we’re not averaging a good return on edible specimens from the field, we are getting exposed to quite the menagerie of woodland types of fungi during our scavenging.

Among the diverse exemplars that we find along the trail just metres from one another we encountered the poisonous and hallucinogenic fly agaric toadstool (Fliegenpilz, Amanita muscaria) quite often, others yet unidentified and works of art in their mystery, and another quavering discovery called a wood ear or a jelly ear (Judasohr, Auricularia auricular-judรฆ, so called from the traditional narrative that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an elder, the sambucus, Holunder tree and these mushrooms often appear at the base of such trees to remind the faithful of this act of betrayal).
For all of its rather Lynchian baggage, the wood ear is very much edible—if not a bit bland unseasoned, and is a staple for umami flavourant in Asian cuisine. Please click on the images for more detail.  The pharmacological merit of the fungus is currently being studied, research suggesting that its palliative use in folk medicine was not far off.

Sunday, 30 September 2018


Yesterday H prepared a fantastic mushroom and pasta dish with what’s called Kräterseitlingen (Pleurotus eryngii, le trumpet royale—elevate your minds!) as the main ingredient—the one in the background, not the psychotropic fly agaric in the foreground—and it turned out to be uniquely flavourful and relatively simple to make.

To serve four, one needs:
250 grams (9 ounces) of band noodles (fresh or dry)
250 grams (9 ounces, three large mushrooms) of King Trumpet mushrooms or substitute button mushrooms or chanterelles (Pfifferlinge)
2 teaspoons of butter
1 container of Crรจme Chantilly (unsweetened whipped cream, Schlagsahne) for texture
1 tablespoon of vegetable broth
A sprig of parsley
A clove of garlic
A large leek (Lauch) or onion
Salt and pepper to season

Begin preparing the pasta according to the instructions, boiling it in slightly salted water. Meanwhile dice the leek, garlic and mushroom, finely chopping the parsley. Braise the garlic and leek slices in a frying pan in the butter until the leeks turn glassy. Introduce the mushrooms and turn until lightly brown. Mix in the crรจme and broth and top with parsley over the pasta.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

chanterelles oder pfifferlinge, linge, linge, linge

With Spargelzeit already just a fond memory this season, we are just entering into Pfifferlinge harvest time—called in English chanterelles (it sounds like a Doo-Wop group) and from the Greek ฮบฮฌฮฝฮธฮฑฯฮฟฯ‚ for a drinking tankard, the little yellow mushrooms looking sort of like a loving-cup—and we tried a new recipe for spaghetti with braised Pfifferlinge, onions and sundried tomatoes. It was pretty simple and not too labour intensive to make—plus very tasty, and seems fairly versatile and would work with other varieties of mushrooms, noodles and seasonings.

For four servings, one needs:

  • 400g Pfifferlinge 
  • 500g Spaghetti 
  • 50g Sundried Tomato 
  • 1 Garlic clove 
  • 4 Spring Onions (Leeks) 
  • 500ml Vegetable Broth 
  • 1 large red onion 
  • 1 bundle of fresh Parsley 
  • 100ml of Crรจme Fraรฎche 
  • Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg for seasoning and a bit of oil for frying 

Wash the Pfiferlinge and along with the diced onion, thinly sliced tomato and garlic, fry in a large pan on middle heat, turning often. To the side, prepare the pasta according to the instructions and the vegetable broth. After around ten minutes, when the spaghetti is nearly ready, cut the leaks into rings slice up the parsley and introduce it to the mix. Add the vegetable broth and bring to boil briefly before stirring in the crรจme fraรฎche. Season to taste and enjoy with a refreshing white wine.

Friday, 25 November 2016

turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay

Reeling collectively still with the news of the untimely but recent natural death of Courage—the first turkey that was graciously pardoned by President Barack Obama in a strange ceremony that annually reasserts the dominance of humans over overfed domesticated fowl, we learn, via a historical newspaper clipping spotted by Weird Universe that the tradition of clemency (and I’d like to see a turkey that could commit capital crimes) is a fairly recent one.
Until the administration Ronald Reagan, turkeys presented to the White House were in general not allowed to retire to greener pastures and were dealt their death knell at the hand of the president. I had believed it was at least as storied and established as some of the other strange folk-practises that the US has cultivated—seemingly for lack of the mythos of other, older nations, like having a groundhog forecast the weather or Columbus Day. On the occasion of Eisenhower’s gala feast, as the article states, an animal psychologist urged him to subject the sacrificial birds to hypnotism in order that they be killed more humanely and so they’d taste better, having not been seized with a rush of adrenaline before going in the oven. With the long life of Tater and Tot secured just yesterday, Obama has set free his last turkey and I wonder if going forward, whoever goes afoul of the court won’t be able to count on its mercy.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

mycological characteristics

Kottke informs that the variety of mushrooms that certain dishes and culinary presentation calls for—and what we are readily willing to pay a premium for—are the same species of fungus but harvested at different points of maturity. The portobello mushroom is no different than dime-a-dozen button mushrooms, just with a better P-R agent. It makes me think of the great baby-carrot fraud, which are just the whittlings off of club-sized carrots that would not be seemly for the produce-aisle.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

bread-line or maรฎtre d'hรดtel

A soup kitchen in Kansas City is fighting the usual stigmatisation associated with such charitable operations by having all the trappings of a formal dining experience, as Bad Ethnography reports. Volunteers act as hosts and servers and patrons are seated and given menus of the day’s offerings to consult. These small dignities are surely rare for the homeless and destitute and the chance to be treated instead of just handled probably returns in spades for the community. A local culinary institute has also joined with this project to give diners who also want to help out in the restaurant training that might lead to gainful employment at some of the city’s other fine establishments. I suspect the measure of satisfied customers—taking pictures of one’s meal—have already been surpassed.  Everything’s up-to-date in Kansas City and I hope that this model spreads.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

hey mister tally man

Via the inestimable The Browser comes a really fascinating piece on the supply chain logistics of the banana trade and the demands it manufactured to satisfy. Like the Egg Council, Juan Valdez and the California Raisins, who really can be bullies and not just advocates for farmers, Big Fruit created various banana republics in the process of perfecting its delivery techniques, inciting coups throughout Central America and even precipitating the Cuban Missile Crisis and enduring tensions, all in the name of ripeness and minimal flecking.

The other aspect to this drama lies in the monoculture of the produce—at least as it’s presented to shoppers in the West. Whereas we might have an embarrassment of choice when it comes to apples and oranges, exotic bananas are all clones of one cultivar—threatened with extinction with the irreversible march of one fungal disease. The way bananas are marketed and grown make them especially susceptible to being wiped out by pandemics, and interestingly the type of banana consumed just one human generations had vastly different characteristics—fruitier and creamier and with a much slicker peel, and hence all those jokes about slipping on a discarded skin that seems physically impossible in the supermarkets of today.

Monday, 28 September 2015


Spargelzeit (Asparagus season) with all its fanfare and focus is a distant memory by now but one up-side to the change of seasons and the cool and damp days ahead is the advent of Mushroom Time. Pfifferlinge, a savoury scalloped fungus found on tree trunks, is my favourite—celebrated with just as much intensity, and while any foraging for these gourmet delicacies, such work is best left to seasoned experts, many keeping the faithful locations of the appearance of this heritage fruiting a secret guarded as well as that for a prized vintner, since there are many more varieties that are deadly poisonous than edible. This time of year, many restaurants adjust their menus—Tageskarte, Speisekarte—to showcase this time-honoured mania.

Monday, 3 August 2015

vermicious knids or many mouths to feed

Although my Venus Flytrap seems to be thriving quite well—despite the dietary restrictions I’ve enforced and certainly don’t want it to suffer any malnourishment in the meantime, it is rather presenting me with a moral dilemma.
To begin with, I wonder what my ward might think of me being a vegetarian, not a carnivore—however passively, but a committed planter-eater, ravenous even. The opportunity to sacrifice an annoying indoor housefly, usually a persistent and irritating occurrence but presently the apartment is strangely silence, has not yet presented itself and I am not sure, unable to swap a pest but only shoo it away, if I could avail myself to the task. I admit that it’s probably a silly thing to rend my hands over, but I’m hoping that I might get away with a crime of omission, that the balcony might an adequate environment for insects in transit or find some unfortunate bug dead or dying of natural causes or not wholly splattered and disintegrated on the car’s grille. I don’t know if that would work. I bet the other, more sessile plants are getting a little jealous of this sort of doting and negative attention. What would you do?