I used to move along the salad bars, looking at the mushrooms, and think: they’re vegetable Styrofoam! Who ever thought eating mushrooms was a good idea? My answer, of course, was it must have been some starving dude lost in the woods who found they were easier to chew on than bark.
Such were the days of my ignorance. Because while raw mushrooms are fairly bland, sautéed or grilled mushrooms are worthy of a passionate, say it slowly, “oh my freaking heck” (hey, I live in Utah).
I now love mushrooms. And I’ve found they very easily replace tasty meats. Probably because they have loads of the fifth basic taste—umami (you-MOM-ee)—just as meats do. I know some of you are thinking, “hold on, didn’t I learn that the tongue can only taste four things?” That’s indeed what you learned. But you were wrong. In 1985 scientists discovered we have a fifth taste, popularly referred to as savoriness, that’s been sitting on the tongue with the sweet, sour, bitter, and salty all along. In fact, humans get their first experience with it in momma’s milk.
But cooked mushrooms not only taste good, they are also actually good for you. They help safeguard against cancer, boost the immune system, supply hard to get nutrients, and can help you cut calories and saturated fats by, as I said before, moving some of the meat off the plate.
With all this goodness it’s hard not to see new opportunities for consumption. And indeed I found one. I love a good BLT (bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich, for any troglodytes who read this column), especially when the bacon is crispy and the tomatoes have some sass or a little feta cheese to accompany them. But one day while partaking of some of my fungus friends, my mind was expanded, and I thought: why not replace the bacon with some sautéed mushrooms? Why not, indeed?
I replaced. I partook. And rejoiced. Then I ate my MT (mushroom-tomato) for lunch three more days in a row (I also found if you must have crispiness, two Sun Chips added to the top of the sandwich do the trick nicely).
Do not disdain the fungus. Cook the little guys up and devour them with some well placed oohs and aahs on an open-faced MT.
“To A Dying Girl”
Clinton F. Larson was a poet who taught at BYU. I remember him coming in to read during one of my classes, but he soon retired, and I was never able to take any of his classes. How sad I am that I could not learn from him because he had much to teach, as evidenced by some of his poems. Here’s one of my favorites.
To a Dying Girl
How quickly must she go?
She calls dark swans from mirrors everywhere:
From halls and porticos, from pools of air.
How quickly must she know?
They wander through the fathoms of her eye,
Waning southerly until their cry
Is gone where she must go.
How quickly does the cloudfire streak the sky,
Tremble on the peaks, then cool and die?
She moves like evening into night,
Forgetful as swans forget their flight
Or spring the fragile snow,
So quickly she must go.
-Clinton F. Larson
The first reading fills the mind with vivid images and a sense of beauty and sorrow. Subsequent readings deepen the feeling. Especially when we reflect a bit on the three images he evokes of passing from life into death. First, the black swans arise to fly south for winter: graceful, beautiful, and dark as death. They’re the girl’s own harbingers, maybe her guides, coming from mirrors, reflecting in the depths of her eye. The second image presents fleeting grandeur and beauty with the stunning cloudfire that often awes us as the sun sets. Isn’t death the time we most value life? The time when, like cloudfire, it burns in glory and beauty and then is gone? The last image presents another image of passing, but not one of loss. It’s not a transition to blackness or cold or bitter loneliness, but of winter passing to spring. Of a fecund beginning.
Of course, there are other things the lines and images evoke. This isn’t a poem to be wrapped up in a tidy bow. Poetry is meant to be felt, not dissected like a dead animal. In the end, that’s what Larson delivers: sorrow, loss, and hope all wraped in the music of his rhythm and words. Beautiful.
A Great Read
“My name is Jacky Faber and in London I was born, but, no, I wasn’t born with that name. Well, the faber part, yes, the Jacky part, no, but they call me Jacky now and it’s fine with me. They also call me Jack-0 and Jock and the Jackeroe, too, and, aye, it’s true I’ve been called Bloody Jack a few times, but that wasn’t all my fault. Mostly, though, they just call me Jacky.
“That wasn’t my name, though, back on That Dark Day when my poor dad died of the pestilence and the men dragged him out of our rooms and down the stairs, his poor head hanging between his shoulders and his poor feet bouncin’ on the stairs, and me all sobbin’ and blubberin’ and mum no help, she bein’ sick, too, and my little sister, as well.
“Back then my name was Mary.”
The book is a historical novel by L. A. Meyer called Bloody Jack. It tells the tale of Mary Faber, who is orphaned in London in the early 19th century and survives only by joining a street gang and then, posing as a boy, the crew of a ship. On board, she has to hide who she is and avoid the many perils of ship life.
The book is delightful, transporting the reader to the time and place with excellent details and a style that evokes the speech and times. There’s humor, danger, adventure, and an interesting cast of characters. I recommend it highly. If you end up loving it as I do, you’ll then be happy to know this is only Jack’s first adventure.