This spring has brought inches and inches of rain (or many feet of snow if you are in the mountains; we are not). And with rain, comes fungus! Normally, fungus is not a thing I celebrate. The word is sort of revolting (decay and toenails) as is the word “spore” (especially when you say “spore” with a Northeastern American accent). But a marvelous event called the “Fungus Fair” has begun to to shift my thinking.
Fungus Fairs are a place where fungus fans can get together and share information about . . . fungus. I am told that sometimes, fungus fairs (and fans) can be pretty boring. Like when the only people who show up to the fair are a “bunch of old guys comparing who has the bigger mushroom.” But with some thought, planning, study, face painting, and snacks, you get what we (as regular volunteers) were lucky enough to attend.
With his teachers’ consent, I sprung Wyatt out of school a little early for the first Presidio Fungus Fair. We knew where we were going, but honestly, once we were within a block of the event, we could have just followed the aroma of sauteed mushrooms to find our way. Several interns at the Presidio Trust had been studying fungus, and they were ready to share everything they knew. We learned about fungus life cycles, deliquescence, the best (only?) mushroom to bake into cookies (candy cap), and the wide varieties of fungi that are currently growing in our area. We even made spore prints and got our faces painted! Check out this poster—the person attached to the pointing finger found and photographed every single one of these specimens in Marin during the period of one week!
Springtime brings new growth, but it also means Spring Cleaning, which so far has been way less fun than the fungus fair. It might get more fun? I don’t know. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that we clear things out annually, usually coinciding with Lent. This year we started on March 1 because that felt like a better day than March 6, and because I’m looking to wrap this mess up within the month. It feels strange to be on-trend with clearing out this year (thanks to Marie Kondo’s Netflix series). But it’s also so comforting and nice because now there are so many other people who are also in the midst of this miserable process! For example, our house painter said yesterday when he saw all the bags we had filled, “Spring cleaning! Yep. I watched the first episode of that show, you know, the one with the toddlers and the parents who are always drinking Starbucks? And it really has made me start to question why I keep some of the stuff I keep. Also? My wife asked me if I am planning to hold her to see if she sparks joy . . . .” I love that it’s suddenly normal that my friend texted me a photos of her organized and labeled shoe bins and the inside of a neatly sorted drawer. Basically, I am into the idea that there are a bunch of us digging out of our stuff—physically and mentally—at the same time.
In addition to this community cleaning phenomenon, though, I really like having a model for a system of “Tidying Up.” Forget what I said in earlier blog posts; I have been clearing out mostly wrong. It is so much more effective to make that “mountain” of all your clothes on your bed, like Marie Kondo says, and then decide piece by piece what you’re keeping based on what gives you a little spark of joy. It’s also a way bigger pain in the ass to do it this way, but doing things right is rarely ever easier.
But because I cannot do everything the hard way, I have parted ways with individual little pancakes for awhile. We have become big fans of the Dutch Baby. Such a weird name, but anyway. There are lots of versions of recipes online, including savory ones, but we’ve just been using the one from the Joy of Cooking, which someone has already blogged about here. Technically, this recipe is the “Double Dutch Baby,” so you might want to half it depending on how many people you’re feeding. We cook the double and save the leftovers for reheating, though, so maybe that will work for you. We’ve been substituting Miyoko’s butter, a gluten-free flour blend, coconut sugar, and cashew milk to make a gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free version. My point in mentioning all these substitutions is to say that the recipe is incredibly forgiving, so use what works for your dietary needs and it will probably be better than fine. Topping the Dutch Baby is super easy if you’re into jam or marmalade and only slightly harder if you’re not. Last weekend, I thawed a bag of frozen strawberries, added a dash of vanilla extract, a tablespoon of coconut sugar, and freshly ground black pepper to make a truly delightful quick sauce for it. Other weekends, I’ve sectioned grapefruit to put on top. The recipe is super versatile, super easy, and Wyatt is almost cooking it by himself now.