26 August 2018

Why I Love Mushrooms


Mushrooms are great. I don't know why fruits and vegetables get all the hype. If you ask me, the best thing nature's got going right now are its fungi.

I've been on vacation in Connecticut the past few days (it seems strange to admit I'm vacationing at a place that is basically home, but there you have it). Our weather so far hasn't exactly been what you'd call fair: pouring rain for days on end, and a river that's flooding its banks.

Unlike the rest of us, the mushrooms love this weather. They're the bright spots of beauty on an otherwise drab and dreary backdrop. I never realized just how many of them there are, and how quickly they grow. Unlike flowers and vegetables that make you wait for weeks and months, mushrooms appear literally overnight. They're like the express delivery men of the plant world.

Plus, they're versatile. Many of us love art, and who doesn't love food? -- mushrooms are both. You can eat them (well, some of them!), and you sure can't beat them for variety of colors, shapes, and textures. We've got big smooth pinkish ones and little orange crinkly ones; ones that look like sponges and ones that look like the pages of a book.

We've got the Bracket Fungi, which grow on trees. They're also called Artists' Fungi because when they're alive and full of moisture you can scratch on the white surface to "draw" on it. I used to have a big Bracket fungus that I broke off from a tree and drew a nature scene on. I probably still have it somewhere, unless the bugs have eaten it up (a drawback you don't have with other art surfaces, which is why I ultimately still prefer canvas over fungus).

I also love mushrooms' names. My favorites so far are Old Man of the Woods, Elegant Stinkhorn, and Orange Jelly. Then there are Dung-Loving Bird's Nests -- although the "dung loving" part really tells you all you need to know. So, too, do Angel of Death and Destroying Angel, both of which ever-so-delicately hint at the consequences of incorporating them into one's soup or stirfry.

But as I mentioned before, some wild mushrooms are edible. In my area, perhaps more of them are edible than I'd realized prior to consulting a field guide. For example, the King Bolete is not only edible, it's supposedly a gourmet delicacy. It's a shame I'm not a mushroom expert, and therefore I can't be certain if the specimans now scattered hither and yon in the yard are Boletes or some sinister poisonous lookalike. They look delicious, and they smell just like good portobellos or shiitakes. As much as I'd love to find out for myself, I probably won't. Sigh. The stakes are a little too high if I'm wrong!

13 August 2018

August Holidays

Sheba celebrating Work Like A Dog Day.

My wall calendar tells me there are no holidays during the month of August. Google disagrees, and would like to offer you the following suggestions for making the most of your summer and your waistline.

Aug. 1: Girlfriends Day. Also, Raspberry Cream Pie Day. If you love your girlfriend, make her a raspberry pie. Just do it. Seriously. (Speaking as a former girlfriend who never got a raspberry pie on Raspberry Cream Pie Day.)

Aug. 2: Coloring Book Day and Ice Cream Sandwich Day. Both of these sound fabulous to me. Thank goodness coloring books for adults are trendy now! (Not that it would stop me if they weren't.)

Aug. 3: Grab Some Nuts Day. This isn't specific enough for me. I need more details. What kind of nuts should I be trying to grab: Almonds? Cashews? Crazy family members?

Aug. 4: It's National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day and National Mustard Day. (I don't recommend celebrating both, at least not at the same time.)

Aug. 5: Work Like A Dog Day. August 5 fell on a Sunday this year, so it didn't seem appropos to take today's suggested activity literally. Well, unless you "work" the way my dog does, which is not at all (see photo above for proof).

Aug. 6: Wiggle Your Toes Day. A slow and painless and mostly ineffectual way to burn off some of the raspberry pie, ice cream sandwiches, and cookies we've eaten thus far. But hey, it can't do any harm.

Aug. 7: Raspberries N' Cream Day. More raspberries. Why not!

Aug. 8: Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day. It's not the most neighborly thing to do, but it could help alleviate some of your garden's overcrowding problems. Unless, of course, your neighbor is also trying to do the same thing. YMMV.

Aug. 9: Today is Book Lover's Day, and your snack of choice is rice pudding for National Rice Pudding Day. But eat carefully -- books and pudding don't get along well together, if they get too close to each other.

Aug. 10: National Lazy Day. This coincides with National Shapewear Day, interestingly enough. I don't know about you, but lazy days do not find me in shapewear!

Aug. 11: Son's and Daughter's Day. So! All this time I thought the only family-related holidays were Mother's Day and Father's Day. I feel duped. Not that mothers and fathers don't deserve to be celebrated, of course, but not all of us are mothers or fathers. However, all of us are sons or daughters, so no one gets left out of this one. Too bad Son's and Daughter's Day isn't more well known -- clearly, Hallmark hasn't figured out a way to capitalize on it yet.

Aug. 12: Julienne Fries Day. I say they need a day for curly fries, since those are amazing and (for some reason) have all but disappeared.

Aug. 13: Left-Handers Day. Thank goodness, they need a day of their own. Left-handers need at least one day of the year when no one sees them eating or writing or doing some other activity with their left hand and asks, "Hey! are you left-handed!?" No, I'm just doing this hoping you would ask!

Aug. 14: Financial Awareness Day. In the event that you're not a responsible adult who is aware of their finances on the other 364 days of the year, today is the day to mend your careless ways. You can even pour over your budget spreadsheets with a creamsicle for National Creamsicle Day.

Aug. 15: National Relaxation Day. Consider this your second chance, in case you didn't get enough relaxation on National Lazy Day.

Aug. 16: National Roller Coaster Day. Is it a coincidence that this is also National Airborne Day? Because that's exactly what I'm afraid will become of me when I get on a roller coaster.

Aug. 17: National I LOVE My Feet Day! Please make sure your feet are stink-free so that everyone else can love them, too...

Aug. 18: Mail Order Catalog Day. Please, oh, please, is there some way we all could get mail order catalogs on only one day of the year, instead of multiple times per week? (I'm mostly looking at you, Oriental Trading Company.)

Aug. 19: Potato Day. Although I'm pretty sure most of us eat potatoes every day, in some form or another.

Aug. 20: Chocolate Pecan Pie Day. Because nothing says "dog days of summer" like heating up the oven to bake a pie, right? Even so, I'd totally eat pecan pie in the summertime. Too bad pecans don't go on sale until around Thanksgiving.

Aug. 21: Brazilian Blowout Day. I had to look this up to see what it was. I mean, it sounds kind of scary if you don't know. Apparently, it's a special type of hair treatment that's supposed to eliminate frizz. You know what they say about things that sound too good to be true, though, right?

Aug. 22: Today is Pecan Torte Day, in case you didn't get your fill of pecans the day before yesterday.

Aug. 23: Cheap Flight Day. Somehow I doubt the airline companies will have gotten the memo on this one, so if that turns out to be the case you can always console yourself with some cake for the occasion of National Sponge Cake Day.

Aug. 24: It's National Peach Pie Day and National Waffle Day. At this point I almost hope there's a National Diet Day coming up, ya know?

Aug. 25: But today is not that day, because it's Banana Split Day! (It's also Kiss and Make Up Day, in case that sounds better to you, but I doubt it. How does a kiss compare to a banana split? It doesn't.)

Aug. 26: Women's Equality Day. This should be every day of the year, ya know what I'm sayin'? (So should National Dog Day.)

Aug. 27: National Just Because Day. I get the distinct impression we're running out of special things for each day.

Aug. 28: Race Your Mouse Day. Assuming you have one or more mice, that is. In which case a cat or two might be worthwhile investment.

Aug. 29: Chop Suey Day. Chop Suey is great, but I think it's supposed to be made of leftovers, and well... At this point, the only leftovers we have on hand are the sweets and junk food we've been eating all month.

Aug. 30: Holistic Pet Day. What is a holistic pet? Can someone tell me, please? Or does it mean that this is the day to take my dog to get acupuncture or something? I hope not, because I can only see that ending one way: disaster.

Aug. 31: It's Diatomaceous Earth Day! I know, I can hardly stand the excitement either.