So far I haven’t died.
That seems like a good thing.
Practical Man found a giant puffball yesterday, when he was out in our forest. When he told me how large it was, I decided I had to see it for myself.
Out in The Nature, as it were.
This tells you what a momentous occasion it was. Me, out in The Nature, in the middle of the week, no less.
We ventured out today after lunch, across the yard, down our forest path and back to the last part of our trail, before it ends at the farmer’s lane. I pointed out what I thought were new trees and Practical Man assured me that those trees had been there for 10 years. I noted the grassy areas where there used to be just rocks and he shook his head.
Things sure do change in The Nature, when you only come out to visit a few times a decade.
Finally, under the trees, off the trail, I saw it.
I didn’t see any fairies dancing.
But, then, this wasn’t a toadstool. It was a puffball.
I picture Rubenesque fairies (of the sort I could blend in with), eating ice cream under this cherubic baby.
Or rather, babies.
There were two.
A giant puffball and a super-cali-fragi-listic-expi-ali-docious puffball. The giant-est puffball of them all.
It’s hard to capture the scale, when it’s in the forest, but it was GIGANTICO.
Bigger than my head and we all know that my head is blessed with some magnificent largesse.
This mushroom was endowed with some encephalic proportions, yes sirree.
Here’s a picture of it in the kitchen sink, in case you had any doubts about the size of it.
The puffball, not my head.
I was slightly nervous, what with it being a wild mushroom and all. Practical Man knew what it was (Calvatia gigantea) but, to reassure his suburban-born wife, he did a little extra research. The Google assured us that it was the harmless and edible Giant Puffball (The Google is always truthful and wise, as long as you don’t believe much of what it says.) And, our friend, Trail Diva, reassured me that we seemed to be the lucky owners of a forest delicacy.
Fried in some butter, it could even be used in lieu of noodles for lasagna, she said.
She had me at “fried in some butter”.
Accordingly, Practical Man plucked it from its forest home and brought it to the house.
It was kind of like bringing home the moon.
A moon that might kill us with its toxins and pent-up mushroom rage.
What, what, what?
A puffball is a pretty show-offy mushroom with its moon scape-y shape and super-cali-fragi-listic-expi-ali-docious size, I think you’ll agree. This made me wonder if it might be the mean girl of the mushroom world.
You can tell I love The Nature, right?
We had to use a very big, bread knife and even that wasn’t enough to deal with the extravaganza of mushroom we had on our hands.
Houston, we need more counter space!
I can hear my friend Pippi saying, “Bleeech”, as I write this.
Not a mushroom fan, that one.
Even I was slightly overcome. This was bigger than the watermelon we had last week and that took a party and 4 meals to devour.
We have mushroom enough for crowds.
Or, for a wicked show-and-tell at school.
Yes, definitely that.
Except, there’s no show-and-tell when you’re an adult, more’s the pity. Many a meeting could be livened up with some show-and-tell, don’t you think?
I’m not sure mushrooms would make it past the (inevitable) safety checkpoint on the way to work show-and-tell, though.
Anyway, we cooked it, outside on the barbecue (it’s the expensive hydro rates in the afternoon and it’s 30 degrees C today, that’s why).
Fried in butter, ‘cos those were our instructions.
We both tried a little schnibble, after it had been fried.
(I watched for convulsions, in case Practical Man and The Google and Trail Diva were wrong.)
It tastes pretty good but we’re not sure about the consistency.
Slightly mushy. Too much butter?
Is there such a thing?
We’ve decided we’ll make lasagna a la Trail Diva with it.
Even though the Italians are probably rolling over in their gnocchi-lined graves.
And Pippi is probably saying, “Double Bleech.”
By the way, this post is a bit of a “do not try this at home” affair. Don’t–I repeat: DON’T just grab mushrooms out of your yard and chow down.
Gotta be careful with the fungi, friends.
If we end up hallucinating or dying, I’ll let you know.
Finally, one of my childhood dreams has come true:
I spent last night in a Little House on the Prairie episode.
At least, that’s what it sounded like, if I closed my eyes.
I wasn’t wearing a calico dress (although, let’s face it, I would have, if I could have found one) but nonetheless, I managed to pretend I was Laura Ingalls Wilder, wearing calico, at a dance in the church/school, swooning over Almanzo (Manly) Wilder.
I was actually wearing jeans and a voopy blouse, at the firehall/library, swooning over Practical Man, so it was kind of the same, really.
After over a decade of living in the country, Practical Man and I went to the Friday night jam session at the firehall/library. The same firehall/library, which has my favourite librarian (her name is also Christine; I don’t think that’s a coincidence) and which, Practical Man rarely hesitates to point out, is just under 5 km from our front door, which is a very good thing because it means that you get a break on your insurance rate. Over 5 km and you’re out of luck.
I can’t believe I know that thing about insurance rates. What is happening to me?
Anyway, the sandwich board sign we have driven past for over a decade advertised “Friday Night Jam Session: All Welcome. 7-10 pm” so even though I wasn’t wearing calico, we decided to go. We were slightly late and smelling heavily of garlic, on account of having just consumed a super tasty dinner of bruschetta made out of cherry tomatoes, basil and garlic from our garden.
Fresh bruschetta is totally worth the social consequences.
We found some chairs at the back of the room and, trying not to exhale garlic fumes too much, settled in to see what was what. There was a couple waltzing near the front, a lady crooning some old, lovely song at the microphone and a plethora of musicians behind her, playing assorted instruments.
The man next to me leaned over (dangerously into the garlic fume zone, I might add), nodded his head in the direction of the waltzers and said, “Can you believe they’ve been married 70 years?”
Since I have entered the middle of ages–and strapping university football players have alarmingly started asking me things during career counselling appointments like, “If I were YOUR son, what would you tell me to do?” even though I feel 23 and FAR too young to be a university student’s parent–I might have described the man next to me as “a young man” except that even though he was easily 20 years younger than I, he and his wife and I were all a good 30 years younger than everybody in the room. Practical Man leaned towards my ear and whispered, “Even I feel young in this place!” and although I, like Laura Ingalls Wilder, have married an older man, I agreed with him.
He DID look young (and not entirely dissimilar to Almanzo Wilder, if I squinted a little).
The man who was young (ahem, like me), appeared to know everyone in the room and told us that this place was “like family” and “don’t be nervous to sing because everyone is really nice”.
I had not come to sing or play guitar: I had come to get the lay of the Friday night jam session land (and to pretend I was Laura Ingalls Wilder).
Because, here’s the thing:
Not everyone can sing.
I can carry a tune but I’m not sure it’s public-performance-get-up-on-a-stage kind of worthy. And, I have more than one music-loving friend who is completely tone deaf. Listening to them belt out a song with the car radio is sort of torture. But, I always let them do it. In fact, I sing along. When I was a teenager, I used to always roll the windows down with my friend Niggle, because the pain of listening to him sing (I use that term loosely because really, there was only one note) was lessened somewhat if I was simultaneously exposed to fresh air.
And lots of it.
But he loved music and I couldn’t rob him of that. The joy of music is that it’s free to everyone, regardless of talent or tone-deafness.
Sometimes, this is a slightly painful philosophy to uphold.
Last night, the singers were not professional. They were, more often than not, septua or octo-genarians, but enthusiastic and often, quite capable. It really was like an episode of Little House on the Prairie, with Pa playing the fiddle and Ma and Mr. Edwards dancing and Laura and Mary clapping.
Okay, I’m back.
Anyway, the rules of the Friday Night Jam seemed to be:
- if you want to sing/play, sign up on The List
- when your name is called, you get to sing/play two songs, max (don’t be hoggy of the microphone, even though it’s super fun to sing into one)
- no song shall have been written after 1955 (we’ll make an exception for Buddy Holly but only because Don does that stuff really well)
- audience shall clap enthusiastically for everyone
- dance if you’re inspired (waltz, foxtrot, two-step…ie REAL dancing only)
- there will, of course, be a lunch
The musical repertoire was from before my time (because I am oh-so young!) but often recognizable and sweet, even if I didn’t know the words. Practical Man kept singing along.
He seemed to know the words to that one.
And the next one, too.
As in, ALL the words.
This is what comes from having a May-September romance. He really is the Almanzo Wilder to my Laura Ingalls.
Around 8:15, there was The Lunch.
One of my favourite things about country parties and Legion dances is that there’s always The Lunch. It’s so vintage feeling and there is some magical formula that makes those triangle sandwiches always taste so good when you’re eating them in a firehall/library.
Then, it was back to the music. There was someone playing a fiddle (because that’s what you call a violin in the country):
There was also a harmonica, keyboards, guitar, base and even a mandolin (I love to imitate a mandolin, the way my dad does when he’s singing along to the Mr. Bojangles song, but I won’t do that here).
The couple celebrating their 70th anniversary would occasionally get up and waltz.
Mitch (the young man sitting next to us) and his bride Brittany did the two-step to a jaunty number.
There were some mumblers (think: Jeff Bridges in True Grit, not Bob Dylan) and painful singers who hadn’t quite cracked what key they should be in, but overall, it was lovely and rural and vintage-y.
That is, until, Mitch leaned over and said, “I guess you can see that you and us are quite a lot younger than everyone here.”
Before I could nod and act nonchalantly as if I wasn’t old enough to be Mitch’s mother, he continued, “I’m 26 and Brittany’s 22. What are you, 30?”
That’s when this episode of Little House on the Prairie became:
The Best Night Ever.
I always think of home veggie gardening as a vintage activity.
Maybe it’s because I am known to wear a giant-brimmed hat and women always used to wear hats, back in the day.
Or, maybe gardening feels vintage because of the rubber boots. They make me invincible to The Nature from the knees down. And, you can jump in puddles with impulsive tra-la-la.
Maybe it feels vintage because gardening is all about growing your own food and eating local. That whole recent trend? Vintage, actually!
Or, perhaps veggie gardening feels vintage because Apple hasn’t yet invented some kind of iMiracle to help with
- the weeding,
- the more weeding,
- the even more weeding (even though you thought you got them all yesterday)
- the never-ending weeding.
I would sleep outside the Apple store if they came out with an iWeeder. Instead, I feel that I am channeling my ancestors as we behold the resilience and fortitude that are weeds.
But now, boys and girls, it is officially scape season. There’s just no escaping it. The scapes, I mean.
A scape is the edible curly-cue that grows out of the centre of hard-necked garlic varieties. They’re like a cowlick in an otherwise beautiful garlic coiffure (I feel a kinship). In our part of the world, we harvest garlic scapes in June, a month or two before the actual garlic bulbs in the ground are ready. Scapes are very mild and taste like garlicky asparagus.
Confession: When I was 16 and billeted for a week into a German family in West Berlin, they served gigantic, tree-trunk spears of white asparagus for dinner (with pickled eel). I ate it because I was a polite Canadian girl (and I didn’t yet know how to say “Oh, I’m terribly sorry, I’m allergic to this whole dinner” in German so I was linguistically prevented from telling a colossal, cross-cultural fib). After that dinner, I never thought I would say that I loved something that tasted like asparagus.
If you hate asparagus, you must try it tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, then grilled. Parmesan shaved over the top once they’re cooked to nutty, caramelized perfection (about 10 minutes) only makes it even more irresistible. Soooo Yum! Use the same recipe for the scapes (or saute on the stovetop with some white wine, hot pepper flakes and the rest of the above). As for the pickled eel, well, you’ll have to make decisions for yourself. I prefer my eels…ugh…no I’m afraid, I don’t prefer eels.
But, garlic scapes are great. That is, of course, unless you’re one of those modern-day-abundant, immortal creatures who roams the night and is in love with some girl called Bella. Then, forget about the grilling and you might also want to avoid our property even if it’s safely after dark in the light of a beautiful moonscape (I’m on kind of a scape roll) and you look all sparkly.
We are not vampire people. We are not sparkly, but rather, possibly smelly, because we loooove the garlic. We watch and wait until suddenly, almost overnight, it happens: scapes! Right now, our garden landscape (sorry, I’ll try to stop soon) is resplendent with the curly little gems.
Practical Man planted three kinds of hard-necked garlic last fall:
- Music (isn’t that a lovely name for a garlic?)
- German Red (makes me think of Snoopy as the Red Baron. Also, slightly of eel.)
- Georgia Fire (loved the name and spicy connotations).
Garlic grows really well in our terrible soil. It’s as if we have a glittering city of skyscapers in our garden (okay, that one was reaching). This year, we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of 80 bulbs. Looking at the patch, over the garden fence, it’s a veritable seascape (I can’t help myself) of garlic, as far as the eye can see.
So, gardening: yes, it’s vintage. Sure, it’s weedy. There can be great hats and boots. And, somewhere in all the weeding, you get goodies, fresh from the earth.
Or, at least garlic, which, in our house, is a major food group. If you haven’t had scapes, look for them at your local farm stands, farm gates and markets.
And, I’m sorry for all the bad puns.
I’m looking around for a scapegoat, but I can’t find one.