August 25, 2008

Champignon de Fay

The three-hundred mile wide oscillating sprinkler that was tropical storm Fay left mushroom tracks on local lawns. Most of these are probably edible macrolepiota americana, but maybe not.

We used to gather wild mushrooms as youngsters, relying on the unreliable folklore that the good ones had gills of tan to brown. The lighter the underbelly, the more dangerous the mushroom, all the way out to the chalk white Destroying Angel which, it was said, allowed victims who had ingested one to delightfully recover from acute gastrointestinal agony just before killing them.

But we knew slippery jack, and knew in exactly which pineywood understory the yummy fungi could be found. They found their way into many a stir fry, spaghetti sauce, or omelet. I brought my German boyfriend, a professional chef, with me on a Michigan outing one October. My old friend Walter, at whose house we were staying, suggested we gather some slippery jack for a roast. Off we went, and there they were: little drifted bunches, nestled among the carpet of pine needles in the white pine stand a short hike from the house. We brought home a goodly basket. Kurt was so taken with them that he went straight out the next day and picked a bunch more. And found several ways to cook and eat them all. He spent all next day in the bathroom. You never know with wild mushrooms. They're not tame. They can leave a native untouched and a visitor quite... touched. Kurt never held it against the slippery jack, which he still admired and even sampled again, though more prudently, in the weeks to come.

Today, my enjoyment of mushrooms is guided by the more reliable aphorism "There are old mushroom hunters, and bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old bold mushroom hunters." The only boldness I indulge these days, is in choosing between whole or sliced ones in the produce section.

I've been making duxelles since my twenties. It's a near-paste of minced mushrooms and shallots, saute'ed in butter. Traditionally, it is used in small dollops to flavor dishes. It can be kept, refrigerated, for a few days. I sometimes like it as a spread, on buttered toast.

8 oz. finely chopped mushrooms
1 shallot, finely chopped
Butter as needed
Parsley, chopped to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the mushrooms and shallot in butter until the mushrooms are browned. Season with the parsley, salt and pepper.

Good morning sunshine

August 20, 2008

Polly wolly doodle all day

Just toss it up in the air... I'll grab it as it goes by.

Bolixing forecasters, Fay chasse’d east at Cape Romano and rumba’d around us before crossing northeast, trailing rainshowers all the way. Thanks for the good wishes, my friends. There was so little clean up, that undoing our preparations took longer. We got dampened and blow dried, and not a lot more.

I have no idea how many hurricanes I’ve lived through or watched unfold on television. The first was hurricane Andrew, the second most destructive storm in U.S. history. It decimated Homestead, south of Miami, a year after I moved to Florida. The weather is actually very predictable here, and normally uneventful … except when there’s a hurricane. We lie, daydreaming, twixt tiger's paws.

I stood in an eye once. On Staten Island, when tropical storm Chris swept up the east coast back in 1988. My friend Pat and I went up to the roof and there it was, like one of DeMille’s biblical miracles, a solid wall of dark, dark clouds, a few miles out, surrounding the perfectly sunlit, sky-blue void where we stood.

Most of the Florida storms I’ve seen have passed south or north of here, and were hobbled after crossing the state, dripping wet, out of the late summer Atlantic hot tub, where they'd drunk too much rum. Gulf storms were less common, though dangerous. Then in 2004 hurricane Charlie buzz-sawed up the southwest coast before trouncing Captiva island and bowling into Port Charlotte, thirty miles north of here, as a category four storm. I was a staffer at the local newspaper. With electric power out all over the city, reporters and pj’s huddled in a flashlight-lit newsroom over volunteered laptops, trying to put together an edition of the paper.

I’d come home at night and stir-fry leftovers, in the fading light, over a Sterno camp stove on the kitchen counter. The condo itself was unscathed. An impromptu sort of festivity emerged. Friends and neighbors huddled around radio broadcasts or played games of flashlight-lit Scrabble… in the conviviality and set-asides that accompany a natural crisis shared and weathered.

The next year, 2005, shattered all previous records. Of the twenty-eight storms, seven became major hurricanes, the five worst of which, including Katrina, came up through the gulf. There were 2,280 storm-related deaths that year, and damages estimated at 100 billion dollars. Hurricane Wilma, the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, caromed off the Yucatan peninsula on October 21 and slammed into Cape Romano (as did a much daintier Fay) with a 120 mph landfall two days later. From there Wilma raced across the state, stone rolling pin brandished overhead, reaching Jupiter on the east coast just four hours later. Flintstone jokes, most of them lame, abounded. Wilma tore off a corner of the roof, the only storm damage the condo has received since it was built 36 years ago. She was the last big storm in our nabe.

Fay is living up to her name, flitting faerie-like in a capricious loop that could alight on Florida no less than four times before her fare thee well. If she drifts north, drought-busting rain will fall on Georgia. Her windy, rain-swept chiffon wafted far and wide around Fay's raggy waltz, raising floods in several counties. We were but brushed. She left my motorcycle standing, a few leaves in the pool, a few Heineken in the fridge, and enough peanut butter and potato chips to last for weeks. And blue skies as far as the eye, and Sky Cam Power Doppler Radar, can see.

Anybody got ranch dip?

August 18, 2008


Heineken, check

Potato chips, check

iPod charged, check

See you on the other side.

August 14, 2008

Foam and fire

We'd wash the car in our swim trunks, splashed by sudsy buckets, sprayed by shimmering arcs squirted from green hoses. Water choked with nozzles made rainbow-haunted mists in the sun. Then, dry clothed and ravenous, we'd pile into the car and drive to the drive-in where we'd order iced root beer and maybe a "long hot dog foot" as my cousin once excitedly barked into the speaker.

There is something essentially primitive, and primitively appealing, about this fire-driven vehicle, its modern shell and bearing notwithstanding. Under its hood is a crude and ancient force, refined, compressed, whose sources and smoke and domestication predate our stories.

But now we return Prometheus' fire to brother sun and our derricks, now bladed and sleek, unto sister wind, who we have learned can light and sail us home all by themselves. Perhaps our earthbound flame will grow sacramental, relegated ceremonially to our candles, Olympic cauldrons, fireworks, flambe's, and the ancient distempers and exuberance of the natural world. And the occasional barbeque. Flame-broiled stuff and washing the car, some car, in the driveway, are forever.

August 12, 2008

Slice / 3

I was drawn, first, to the light and composition. Then by how these two fragments of the natural world, the palm tree in its allee, the trees reflected in the box office glass, are sequestered in their fabricated contexts, one concretely, the other metaphorically.

August 9, 2008

Feral carts

I see them, these feral carts, on my ride. The old ones huddled in the same old places. I see new ones in places where I've not seen one before. Cart vans sweep through the neighborhood, rounding up runaways. They always come back. I've watched them watching cars. A few can never be tamed.

August 7, 2008

August 5, 2008

Elementary canals

The city of Cape Coral is laced with over 400 miles of canals. I thought I'd get in a boat one day and explore them all. Meanwhile, some passing glimpses...

August 1, 2008

Tony loves Terry

Terry wasn't a popular name among my classmates, or among my adult friends. The only Terry I remember was the one I worked a summer job with, I'm guessing we were seventeen, at a department store. Blondish, built, waspy, wound up, he radiated such verility that one suspects he could have impregnated girls by simply facing in their general direction. He was aware of this and had an aura of laughing at life. Everybody liked him.

Who's your Terry?