Weekend Linkages: Smoking Chickens

I really gotta stop looking at Twitter but that’s where you find images of smoking chickens.

Is that a dishwasher or a Hindu temple? Inside kitsch pomo masterpiece Cosmic House (Thanks for the link Nic!)

One Work: Gelatin’s The B-Thing

Meet Thatcher Wine: the ‘celebrity bibliophile’ you didn’t know you needed

The Last Glimpses of California’s Vanishing Hippie Utopias (Thanks Daniel for the link!)

How To Build Your Own Trippy Meditation Pod

Insects are vanishing from our planet at an alarming rate. But there are ways to help them

Improving tiny urban greenspaces causes huge boosts in insect life

If Hollywood Workers Strike, the Entertainment Industry Will Grind to a Halt

Chicken of the Woods 2021

We begin this post with a disclaimer. The very last thing you should do is act on edible mushroom foraging advice from this particular blogger. That said, we enjoyed two delicious meals of chicken of the woods mushrooms this week thanks to friend of the blog Lee. And, yes, it really does have both the taste and texture of chicken.

Back in 2019 Lee alerted us to a secret stash growing on one of LA’s many carob trees. Our 2021 harvest was on another carob tree, this time on Lee’s compound.

In the two years since that first harvest I’ve learned a few things about the edibility of this mushroom. You need to cook the mushroom thoroughly or nausea and vomiting can result. It’s also good to harvest on the young side as the older specimens are tough and can cause stomach upset. You also need to avoid specimens growing on conifers or eucalyptus trees. I’d advise eating a small amount first and seeing how you do. We consumed copious quantities of it with no ill effect.

Recent research has shown that what was once thought of as one species of chicken of the woods in North America is, in fact, a complex of species. Here in the west we have Laetiporus gilbertsonii.

Here’s some good photos showing Laetiporus gilbertsonii at various stages.

Note that should this mushroom show up on one of your trees you’ll want to hire an arborist as this fungus can cause serious structural problems. On the plus side you’ll have many gourmet meals.

To review, eat the young growth, cook well and know the species of tree you’re harvesting from and you should be fine. Chicken of the woods is sort of a gateway to edible mushroom foraging as it’s one of the easiest wild mushrooms to identify. The only problem you’ll have is what to do with the many pounds of delicious bounty that will appear, I guarantee you, when you’ve got other stuff to do.

Weekend Linkages: 217 Vacuum Cleaners

Spotted on a dog walk. FYI, I think it’s a joke.

Long Twitter thread on cats that hide inside of furniture

I think this might be my favorite bit of opera (thank you Lee!)

My neighbor Chap does these amazing recreations of the colors of ancient statuary

Looking for a cookbook made by motorcycle clubs or clowns?

The disastrous voyage of Satoshi, the world’s first cryptocurrency cruise ship

Building with Mushrooms

Traditional technique of hand ironing and folding shirts

Eating the Void: On Making a Raw Café Gratitude Chocolate Hazelnut Pie

I have a small collection of odd cookbooks that have, for the most part, gone unused which is probably a good thing. One that’s collected dust for years is I Am Grateful: Recipes and Lifestyle of Café Gratitude. Friends who have been to this oh-so-California restaurant say that’s it’s good while simultaneously a parody of itself. As the intro to the cookbook notes,

The Café Gratitude menu gives you the opportunity to start practicing saying something new and affirming about yourself by simply placing your order. All of the items on our menu have self affirming names like “I am adoring,” “I am loved,” or “I am fulfilled,” which is how we encourage customers to order what they want. Then when the servers bring them their food and drinks, they place them down saying, “You are loved,” or “You are fulfilled”!

Many of the recipes involve hours of dehydrating and the sourcing of more exotic and precious ingredients than Louis XVI ever had access to before the resentful mobs ended his banquets.

The appearance of one of those exotic ingredients (some friends joke gifted me with a package of Irish moss, Chondrus crispus, from the oh-so-San Francisco Rainbow Market) allowed me to make one of the desserts in the I Am Grateful cookbook, the “I Am Bliss” raw vegan chocolate hazelnut pie.

Picking up the remaining ingredients for I Am Bliss proved both expensive and challenging. Naturally, I went to our new oh-so-Los Angeles Erewhan market, which just had a well publicized incident involving a dominatrix leading her client through the store with a dog leash:

Take that San Francisco! But I digress–back to I Am Bliss. In addition to the Irish moss, I needed $1,000 in nuts and lecithin, an ingredient that proved elusive even in the fanciest health food store in the city (they had it in capsule form but I didn’t want to spend $30 on one pie). I took to Google to come up with an alternative and substituted guar gum. I never found any coconut butter and just used coconut flakes ground up in a food processor.

The baking or, rather, non-baking of the pie was quick if tedious. If you’d like to attempt it yourself here’s the compete recipe. To summarize, you grind up nuts with the aforementioned exotic ingredients and some cocoa powder and agave syrup (a.k.a. sugar!) and pour the goop into the crust made out of nuts and dates. The guar gum solidified the filling instantly. Then you make “I Am the Top living meringue” out of more Irish moss, soaked cashews and coconut flakes.

The results? It tasted the way a health food store smells, like some vague mixture of old carob from the bulk bins and seaweed chips. I have a nostalgia for 70s California health food store ambiance so I kinda liked it. Kelly tasted it and made a face. I gifted some vegan friends a slice which both they and their pet parrot rejected.

I will say that I’m happy that the raw food trend seems to have faded in recent years, though of course there’s always an equally silly food trend to take its place such as that all meat diet. The raw diet, the all meat diet, and all their extreme cousins are varying ways of negating the very material act of eating. It reminds me of Slavoj Zizek’s rap about caffeine free diet coke,

We drink Coke – or any drink – for two reasons: for its thirst-quenching or nutritional value, and for its taste. In the case of caffeine-free diet Coke, nutritional value is suspended and the caffeine, as the key ingredient of its taste, is also taken away – all that remains is a pure semblance, an artificial promise of a substance which never materialized. Is it not true that in this sense, in the case of caffeine-free diet Coke, we almost literally ‘drink nothing in the guise of something’? . . . Lacan emphasized how in anorexia, the subject does not simply ‘eat nothing’ – rather, she or he actively wants to eat the Nothingness (the Void) that is itself the ultimate object-cause of desire.

My I Am Bliss pie might better be called I Am the Void.

To be clear I think that we all can benefit from a portion of our diet being raw vegetables. But we also have to acknowledge that our digestives systems have evolved over thousands of years to cooking food. Indeed, there are many foods that don’t release their nutrition unless they are cooked.

In addition to this culinary nihilism, the proprietors of Café Gratitude mix into the recipes what Mark Fisher called “business ontology,” that ever present drive to explain every aspect of our lives in the language of business. A pull quote next the the I Am Bliss recipe enjoins me to “Consider that a leader always apologizes first and takes 100% responsibility. Where in your life can you take the lead?” It turns out that the owners of Café Gratitude call it a “a school of transformation disguised as a cafe” and have, allegedly, forced employees to attend culty Landmark Forum seminars.

During the pandemic I watched several acquaintances go from this new agey/business ontological/wellness world into a deep and dark Qanon hole and they weren’t alone. The phenomenon got dubbed “pastel Qanon.” It revealed the regressive, victim blaming, fat shaming ideology at the heart of some of the groovy wellness/health food world turned out to be not so groovy after all.

Not that there’s a direct pipeline from the I Am Bliss raw vegan chocolate hazelnut pie and believing that a satanic pedophile ring run the world. In fact, the dehydrated crackers in the cookbook are good enough that I’ll keep it around if just for a taste of California culture that’s easier to enjoy than being led around Erewhon on the end of a leash.