I have a vivid memory of my Papa’s guacamole during a super bowl party when I was a kid. I don’t know who it was that I can actually credit for making it, but I credit my Papa because he brought people together. A friend of his caught eye of my young, captivated attention, directed into the bowl, and let me ask him questions. I’ve been trying to make guacamole that good ever since.
It was 7pm and I was rustling together a few things to be sure I had the proper foraging gear, while finishing a soup with pickled rainbow carrots, making my Cousin a leather wrist cuff for her Birthday, and feeling like, “Am I really doing this?”
YES! I’m on a mission to find medicinal mushrooms!
Magically, a friend showed up at our door and agreed to stay and watch our cat. He helped me make soup for my Aunt, and ate the soup I had left over in the fridge. By 8pm, my son and I were on the road to San Mateo (about a 5 hour drive up North), leaving the house a bizarre looking mess. Between the biggest storm we just had, in which we had to bring in boxes of stuff from outside to the living room, and the ridiculous amount of mess it takes to create one big soup and a leather bracelet, it looks like a storm in my house.
(Horse salad for some Topanga horses, from left over scraps making the soup.)
We arrived at 1:30am, fell asleep. My son made breakfast in the morning, as I anxiously waited for him to finish, so I could get on a trail and search for mushrooms in the forest. My body was so ready to move and explore after a long drive.
Zanes breakfast. French toast logs with chocolate hazelnut spread filling. They were worth the wait.
My Aunt Caroline came with me, and did a really good job at pointing out little side areas off the trail, that I should go look. She exercised the trail, while I got deep in the redwoods. Which led me to finding a little bit of several different varieties, until I got lost, and eventually found her again.
This is witches butter. It’s a squiggly yellow fungus, and feels slimy.
When we got back, my friend Joseph, who was staying at our house, sent me a text. “Your food is magical….You make medicine soups.” He was enjoying my vegan borscht with chaga mushroom powder. It gave me some encouragement.
Last minute, we asked my Aunt Gretchen and Uncle Paul to come over for dinner. My Aunt Caroline, who’s always kind and supportive, was happy to let me cook for everyone.
The Teenagers, my three Cousins, all had their own thing going on that night, so it was just us Adults and my son, Zane, who will almost be a teenager.
I quickly went to Draegers Market to pick up stuff for Tacos. On my way, my Aunt Caroline reminded me to make guacamole.
Doing my best to keep a big dinner at a reasonable cost, I wanted to buy only exactly what we needed, and not go over the top. I looked at the $50 a pound chanterelle, and morel mushrooms for a moment, wishing, and then grabbed some little $6 yellow ones.
I had my Papa’s guacamole in my mind while I shopped.
I was worried about not having enough tortillas, so I bought too many. I didn’t know who would want corn tortillas and who would want flour tortillas. When I brought everything to the kitchen counter, spread out, my Uncle Graham (who always walks in the room full of charisma and energy) came in the kitchen asking, “how’s it going?”.
“It’s ok, I think I bought too many tortillas though”, I said nervously. I didn’t know how any of this would turn out, only that I cared deeply that everyone enjoy the dinner, and no one left hungry.
While we ate tacos, Uncle Paul, who has a lot of cool things to say about foods he’s enjoyed; talked about a guacamole contest he went to. He said everyone agreed this one Woman who won, had the most insanely best guacamole. He described her as very shy, while everyone hovered over her guacamole, going nuts over it.
“What was in it?!”, we all wanted to know.
I know the secret ingredient now, I don’t want to share it yet. Actually, I want to have a Topanga town guacamole contest.
Although, there wasn’t a farmers market that day, and I was 6 hours away from my walk in fridge of produce, I found a few variety of vegetables that made me happy to work with.
I charred shishito peppers with olive oil, salt and topped it with a little truffle oil. Fried the mushrooms. Made skirt steak , shrimp with chili powder, mango salsa with orange heirloom tomatoes. Sliced watermelon radish, soaked in lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. A cabbage salad with sliced fennel, little bit of watermelon radish, lemon juice and oil. The guacamole was put together by my son, who was the best sous chef. He even cut the shrimp and the mango perfectly. We sliced some heirloom tomatoes and used torpedo onions in the guacamole, some lime juice and salt.
My Aunt Caroline said, “green onions are healthier then regular onions”. I guess anything that’s green is healthier. She also told me that when cooking garlic, slice it and leave it out for 10-15 minutes and then cook it. For some reason, that’s how to do it when you want to keep it’s medicinal properties if you’re cooking it. The book “Eating on the Wild Side” explains it in depth.
My Uncle Paul, seemed interested in what I was doing in the kitchen, which made me feel like I was doing something right. I didn’t know if they would like the shishito peppers, or the watermelon radish. He said they were some of his favorite things. My family knows good food.
My Uncle Graham and Zane, talked numbers, and Zanes career plans, while my Aunt Gretchen and I talked about the importance of small farming. She said something like, “I’m old enough to have lived in a time, where it was the norm, everyone knew their farmer, and then farming became industrialized….” She has a wealth of information, and ability to clearly explain it all to me. I just said, “I wish I was recording this.”
After we ate, my Aunts and I were in the kitchen, and I told them I just learned yesterday, of a mushroom called, Laughing Mushroom, that makes people laugh uncontrollably. The night ended with my Aunt Caroline saying, “that’s my favorite song!” While singing the Mary Poppins song, “I love to laugh”, as three ladies burst into laughter!
We were on our way home at 10pm. I didn’t get hungry the whole ride.
Maybe the teenagers will join us next time,
if they don’t have something cooler going on. 🙂