The Mushroom Farmer, Chapter 7

The mf has a new plan he both likes and fears.

The plan is designed to confront the sad fact that his donation to local food banks of 100 pounds of homegrown oranges and bananas from his very own backyard has not solved the problem of hunger in Los Angeles.

It is not clear why he thought it would. He can’t possibly think that 100 pounds of fruit would feed two million hungry people indefinitely — can he? That comes out to five ten-millionths of a pound per person, considerably short of the roughly four pounds of food people need to eat per day.

Perhaps the mf is confused. Maybe he is confused about the difference between starting something and finishing. Or not even finishing, just following through, taking the next step.

That sounds right. The mf has a one-and-done streak. For example, in his twenties he wrote two one-act plays, produced them himself, on a stage, with lighting and actors and props and everything. Oh, what funny and incisive one-act plays they were, but uh-oh. The single review was scathing. And that was it for the mf’s playwriting career.

Will the same thing happen to his hunger drive? This is what he fears: giving up.

But this won’t happen, probably, because the mf has a plan: he is going to make carrot top spaetzle.

Spaetzle being a dough-y noodle popular in Germany and Eastern Europe. The mf’s Polish-Jewish ancestors might have eaten spaetzle but more likely pierogis, which are the same thing except dumplings. He is also planning to make carrot pierogis.

Each of these dishes comes from a cookbook recommended by his daughter, who had heard of his disgruntlement.

The cookbook is titled waste not: how to get the most from your food by the James Beard Foundation. The mf likes nothing more than to drop everything and do whatever either of his daughters asks him to do, so he is rarin’ to go on this plan to reduce his own food waste by using the whole carrot in these two recipes.

Be the change you want to see in the world is a cliché that follows the mf around like a toddler who has just received the gift of a portable drum. Much of the mf’s disgruntlement has to do with his having changed and the world not having followed.

Perhaps he is confused about what change means.

Perhaps change does not mean doing something, such as donating backyard produce to a food bank, once, or even twice.

Maybe change means something else, something the mf has yet to discover.

Now he has a chance for discovery. That is a good chance — a great chance! Discovery gives life meaning and who doesn’t like that?

A: Nihilists — but the mf is not a nihilist, oh no, far from it. He is growing carrots in his garden right now. Yes! Carrot tops have emerged like star sparkle in row three.

Carrots have emerged like star-sparkle.

How they got there, the mf has no ready explanation. He planted carrots there two or three years ago and they fizzled, yet another vegetable no-show, how disappointing. And yet — credit where it’s due — the mf has not been one-and-done on gardening. Oh no. He has kept planting other stuff, non-carrots, and some of them are actually thriving.

For example, one plant that is positively flexing is second lavender plant he transplanted as a cutting from the first, because it was clearly thriving in its spot smack dab in the middle of the garden and the mf thought, “Why not?”

Flexing lavender

The second lavender plant is gearing up to become as cumulous cloud-y as the first; a big ol’ billowing of lavender floating up from the ground. Speaking of wasting not, couldn’t the mf start doing something with all this lavender? His wife love bath bombs, hint-hint.

Big Hug Lettuce

Actually, when you start poking around row three, you notice bunches of lettuce beginning to look salad-worthy. They are opening into that rarest of COVID-19-era things: an embrace. How proud the mf will be to be donating lettuce to food banks. That stuff is healthy.

Garlic, an unfurling companion

And everywhere you look: garlic fronds unfurling. The mf planted garlic up and down all of the rows. It’s a friendly companion plant. It keeps bugs at bay. Onions too. The onions haven’t sprouted yet but they will, oh they will.

It’s really looking like the mf is about to have a garden on his hands. The question is becoming: what will he do with it? And that’s what I’m tryin’ to tell ya — he’s planning to make carrot spaetzle and pierogies as a step towards solving the problem of hunger in LA.

Published by MarkGozonsky

Mark Gozonsky has been writing stories and essays since he was a music snob prodigy in early-1970's San Antonio, Texas. Since then he has written about not only music but also baseball, gardening, teaching, parenting, cycling and the... glory of love. Lit Hub and The Sun have published his work, and so has the Austin Chronicle. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, where he teaches English to some of the nicest kids in the world at an arts-themed public high school downtown.

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