I’ve just escaped from a three-day board retreat in Virginia, and my sanity and faith in humanity has really been frazzled. Virginia is pretty, with verdant deciduous trees and colonial-style houses. Why, walking down the street, you could almost hear the sound of Paul Revere’s horse galloping down the cobble-stoned paths, warning of the British’s coming. And in the distance you can hear the terrifying sound of the Brits as they came: “Looky, you just take the lift to get to the bog, and Bob’s your uncle.”
But I didn’t get much time to see Virginia, due to three hellish days of board meetings, where it became clear to me that the organization is in serious trouble, and that I will probably have to once again launch a revolution, like the one the freed America from the Brits (“Cor Blimey, Stevens, rotate anti-clockwise or you’ll blodge the whole pudding!”). All the while, I was praying that nothing would happen to my new office equipment, or to my car, or to my flat-panel TV after the office break-in.
That’s why I want to talk to you about morel mushrooms. Now, you may be thinking, “What the hell do morel mushrooms have to do with anything?” Every Spring, I go to the farmer’s market, eagerly anticipating the morels, which look like this:
They are expensive because they cannot be grown, only harvested from the forest. Some will only grow after a forest fire. Last Sunday, after going week after week and being disappointed, there they were. Jameelah and I bought a pound for $20. They were beautiful, smelling of the earth, of the forest, of gym socks, but in a good way. I was giddier than a Japanese school girl with a new weeping panda backpack. I took them home and threw them in a bowl of cold water, anticipating savoring them sautéed in olive oil and garlic and served over microwaved pasta, with a glass of Jack and Coke, the epitome of culinary elegance.
Then, to my horrors, little white larvae—tiny little worms—started wriggling out of them. Not many, but enough to make me queasy. They fell to the bottom of the water, where they drowned. But still, they were there. It was sickening to think that morels, one of the most delicious things on earth, are tainted by the presence of disgusting little worms. I had to think about whether I wanted to eat them still.
After several week of horrible luck, I’ve come to realize that the world is like those morels. Delicious, but home to occasional worms. Incompetent, selfish people are always present in the morels of life. It is discouraging to think that the things that we do to try to make the world a delicious plate of pasta with sautéed wild mushrooms, can be undone by little wriggling worms of ego and ineptitude.
So, what did I do with the mushrooms, you ask? Throw them out? Hell no. They’re fricken $20 bucks a pound. I soaked them in salt water, rinsed them, then sautéed them as planned. While eating, I tried not to think of what else were in them. I remembered last year, I just used a mushroom brush instead of submerging the morels in salt water. Now I realize that I probably ate a dozen of those little worms without knowing. The mushrooms were delicious last year…and I wonder if it was because I was ignorant, or because the worms added flavor. Maybe that’s it. Maybe the morels are delicious because of the worms.
So perhaps all the crazy break-ins of my office, of my car, all the political scheming in nonprofits, the mutinies, the defense of insipidness, and that stupid Jack-in-the-Box “mini sirloin burger” commercial, all those add flavor to our world. I have no idea. It is past mid-night, and I am losing concentration. But this much I know: However how much awfulness there is in our world, no matter how much craziness, at least we don’t have to talk like the British (“Sweet fanny Adams, why all the slagging?”).