The Mushroom Farmer, Book 4, Chapter 7

The Mushroom Farmer has donated mushrooms he grew to a local food bank.

There they were, golden chestnut mushrooms, French toast brown in the mid-December-day sun. The mf unpocketed his trusty mushroom knife and took the fungus, washed them off in the kitchen sink and swaddled them in some paper napkins, which had never dreamed of being summoned for such an ethereal purpose.

The mf proceeded to putter about, preparing row two for re-seeding by plucking out the most flagrant crabgrass, then layering on some compost and soil and letting the molecules intermingle.

Then it was the next day and he was all excited to harvest grapefruit from the tree inside the chicken coop. Now there is a citrus tree with BRIGHT GREEN leaves. No nitrogen shortage here! The chickens roost in the grapefruit tree and that is a lullaby in action. Yes, the harvested grapefruit do require a hosing-down but they have a thick rind so not to worry.

The woman at the food bank had said yes on grapefruit when the mf wrote to ask if she could use pea greens and grapefruit. He thought this was diplomatic. Grapefruit feed more people and also it’s cold season, she wrote back, side-stepping the issue of how the mf is a definite outlier in his fondness for grazing on pea greens.

However, he still filled a gallon-sized baggie with them because how will people ever know if they don’t try ’em. He also almost-filled two other gallon-sized baggies with lettuce and kale. Yes, the slug bait has given the leafy greens room to grow. The mf is scaling up, gradually.

Incrementally.

And it was while pondering this incremental growth that it occurred to him: he could give the mushrooms away to the food bank!

I don’t know why this came to him as such a surprise since growing mushrooms to give away to a food bank is his oft-expressed goal. I mean, you’ve been following this chronicle for some time now — doesn’t it seem to you that the mf has often expressed the explicit goal of growing mushrooms and giving them away to a food bank?

I guess it’s one of those cases where you dream a dream for so long that it takes a while to realize it is now reality.

The mf took half of the mushrooms and put them in a little sandwich baggy with “Golden Chestnut mushrooms” written in black Sharpie, so the words looked like they were floating on a cloud. Then he packed the pea greens and lettuce and kale and grapefruit and mushrooms all into a thank you-thank you-thank you-have a nice day plastic bag and drove down the street to the food bank. He thought about riding his bike to make it more eco but he had a tennis match coming up and needed to move things along.

There was a throng of volunteers. They pack their donations in the parking lot of a now-closed restaurant with a gaudy mural in the back condemning genetically modified food. A Satanic-looking genie-head rises in evil laughter above a row of tainted crops while a farm family backs away in horror.

The mf’s daughters always taunt this mural for its overall ugliness and lack of nuance in considering the benefits of genetically modified food, which they learned about in high school years ago and have never forgotten.

Whatever you feel about genetically modified food, it would do your heart good to see the throng of volunteers sorting donations for this food bank, which the organizer started in her garage at the first peak of COVID. Yes! She and the mf had the same dream, only she has realized it on a much greater scale. Hooray for her, is what I say. The mf is proud to be a rivulet contributing to her stream. That’s how it works!

He bounded up to her, this woman who exudes life force. You know these people whose light just shines a little brighter. She greeted him thusly:

“Are you our grapefruit man?”

“I’m aspiring to be,” said the mf. “I also brought pea greens. I couldn’t help myself.”

“They’re so delicious,” she replied. “Maybe I’ll make a salad for the volunteers.”

The mf mused on her continued diplomacy and while he was musing, she held up the mushrooms and said, “Are these for us?”

“Yes,” he said, wondering if she was going to say they couldn’t accept donations of mushrooms because they aren’t crazy.

“Did you grow them yourself?”

“I did,” he said.

“Shut up,” she said, making awe-face — eyes wide open and mouth wide open too. This woman who started her own food bank in her garage, who now has a parking lot full of volunteers, making awe-face at the mf.

“You’re spoiling us,” she said.

“I’m trying,” the mf said, and off he went to get trounced in his tennis match.

Published by MarkGozonsky

Mark Gozonsky is the author of The Gift is to the Giver: Chronicles of a 21st Century Decade (Keppie Usage, 2022). His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Sun, and Lit Hub. Mark’s essay, “Gritty All Day Long,” is anthologized by Norton and featured in Best American Sports Writing. He has been writing since his emergence as a gigantic music nerd in early-1970’s San Antonio, Texas. Stints as a regular commentator on public radio’s Marketplace and Internet 1.0 exec preceded a 20-year run as a public school teacher. Marko’s favorite writing topics include unorthodox pedagogy, well-intended gardening, and the intersection of baseball and urban bicycling. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, where he is working on a new book about his quest to play tennis on every free public court in LA.

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