Thomas Pynchon on Pizza

Still from the movie Inherent Vice based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon.

Blog reader BLDinMT left a kind comment responding to my silly post on cooking out of the Café Gratitude cookbook which triggered a memory of a passage in Thomas Pynchon’s novel Vineland. I don’t remember much about the novel but I do remember Pynchon’s spot-on description of 1970s era California health food cooking,

Prairie worked at the Bodhi Dharma Pizza Temple, which a little smugly offered the most wholesome, not to mention the slowest, fast food in the region, a classic example of the California pizza concept at its most misguided. Zoyd was both a certified pizzamaniac and a cheapskate, but not once had he ever hustled Prairie for one nepotistic slice of the Bodhi Dharma product. Its sauce was all but crunchy with fistfuls of herbs only marginally Italian and more appropriate in a cough remedy, the rennetless cheese reminded customers variously of bottled hollandaise or joint compound, and the options were all vegetables rigorously organic, whose high water content saturated, long before it baked through, a stone-ground twelve-grain crust with the lightness and digestibility of a manhole cover.

Pynchon being Pynchon, pizza appears frequently in his novels as a multi-valiant symbol. In Vineland it’s a symbol of the Dharma wheel and the eight-fold path of Buddhism (pizza is usually cut into eight pieces).

Weekend Linkages: Smoking Chickens

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

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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

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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