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The Joy Of Mycophilia

The pioppinos from Mushroom Maggie

It gives me great pleasure to tell you that people in Baton Rouge are standing by the Red Stick Farmers’ Market during this crisis. My wife put in a big Easter order this week, for the Thursday morning pick-up. Since the crisis, the farmers market has gone to online orders, with curbside delivery at a single site in the city. This was the first time we had done the farmers market order since the crisis started, and it occurred to us that we ought to be doing more to help the local folks. Julie and Nora went to get our stuff, and joined a line of over 100 cars! That’s so encouraging!

The thing I was most looking forward to in the bounty was mushrooms from Mushroom Maggie’s, a little mushroom farm in Starhill, not too far from where my mom lives. Maggie Long and her husband Cyrus Lester run the farm. As they explain in this news story, they didn’t know much at all about mushroom growing, until they decided a few years back to teach themselves. Now they have a successful business.

In the news story to which I link, Maggie tells the reporter that she didn’t really care for eating mushrooms before she got into the business, because all she knew were bland supermarket mushrooms. But once you taste homegrown mushrooms, in all the different varieties, it opens you up to a new world. I really love mushrooms, but don’t cook them often because I’m the only one in my house who does. The other day, as we were planning our Pascha menu, I realized that when I break the Lenten fast on Sunday, I want a T-bone steak grilled medium rare, boiled new potatoes swimming in butter and sea salt, and Maggie’s mushrooms sauteed in a special bit of Normandy butter that I’ve reserved. I also want to make a chicken and mushroom stew next week, or maybe a chicken and mushroom pie. I e-mailed Maggie for advice.

Today she sent home some shiitakes and some pioppinos, and a type I can’t identify. Look at the beautiful gills:

My favorite way to eat mushrooms is simply sautéed in good butter, with a sprinkling of sea salt on top. I think I really must be a hobbit. I love the earthy aroma and taste of mushrooms. I think I should devote myself to learning how to make more delicious things with mushrooms, now that I have a source of homemade mushrooms nearby.

Are you a mushroom lover — that is, a mycophile? If so, what do you love about them? How do you like to cook them? Do you grow them yourself?

Julie and Nora brought back potatoes, chard, spinach, strawberries, golden beets and beet greens, fresh milk from a local dairy, and beef from a local cattle farmer, in their haul. To be especially careful, they washed the vegetables outside and dried them carefully on beach towels before bringing them into the house. It made me unexpectedly cheerful to see all that produce laying in the sun on this surprisingly cool south Louisiana spring day. And while they were doing that, the postman brought in some packets of seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange:


Herbs and flowers and radishes to look forward to! This would have made me happy any old time, but coming right now, they almost brought tears to my eyes. This is one thing that my wife is better at than I am. Me, I’m satisfied to sit around contemplating the doom unfolding around us; she, though, is more motivated to get out there and plant something. She knows that she cannot stop what’s going to happen from happening, but she does not have to be paralyzed in the face of it. Sunflowers and zinnias and herbs and radishes aren’t going to kill the virus or save the economy, but they can gladden the heart, delight the tongue (just you wait till I make pesto, and hibiscus tea), busy the hands, and are, in a way, a vote of confidence in the future. Which is just the thing we need right now.

I encourage you to plant something, anything, in your backyard, if you have one. If you live in Baton Rouge or the surrounding area, and you have the money to buy from local farmers, please, please make weekly pick-up orders from the Farmers Market (see here for more information). Like many farmers, Mushroom Maggie’s makes most of its money from selling to restaurants … many of which are closed for the time being. We need to do what we can to support them. This is no doubt true where many of you readers live.

Don’t forget to put in the comments section your favorite mushroom stories and recipes!

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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