#72 | The Wolf, Breadmaking, and Growing Mushrooms
It’s now officially the year of the rabbit, but it feels more like the year of the wolf.
The literal wolf: Asha, or, as the bureaucrats call her, Mexican gray wolf #f2754, was captured outside Taos last week and transported to the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility south of Albuquerque. For reasons unknown (probably not the skiing), she’d wandered far from her Arizona pack, and she reportedly showed no interest in heading back south to the designated Mexican Wolf Experimental Project Area. Some argued that she should be allowed to run wild and free, and was perhaps scoping out better wolf habitat for a changing climate; US Fish and Wildlife decided that she needs to breed.
As we learned while following the adventures of OR-7 and OR-59 in California a few years back, wolves have been known to walk hundreds—even thousands—of miles in search of a mate or a meal. With the ability to eat twenty pounds of meat in one sitting, wolves are not delicate dinner guests, nor, according to Wikipedia, are they fussy eaters. Few will argue with saving butterflies and bees for biodiversity, but wolves are trickier. OR-59 was shot dead in 2018, his killer still unknown. We hope Asha has a happier fate.
The figurative (or is it metaphysical?) wolf: M. F. K. Fisher first published How to Cook a Wolf in 1942. With chapter titles like “How to Keep Alive” and “How to Be Cheerful Though Starving” and recipes designed for the starkest of pantries, the book might seem to point at the chasm between true scarcity and a no longer skyrocketing but still really, really high cost of living. Fisher rattles off all sorts of ways to “practice economy,” from baking five things at once in order to conserve fuel to using less butter to drinking tisane in place of dessert.
We don’t expect to make tomato soup cake anytime soon (war cake sounds even worse), and we have yet to stretch scrambled eggs with bread crumbs or add puffed cereal to our soufflés (mostly because we don’t even remember the last time we saw a soufflé, much less made one). But we did curse in genuine dismay upon shattering a precious egg on the kitchen floor the other day. And we’ve become just a little more obsessive about dicing up stale bread for crumbs or croutons. Too, we sorta agree with Fisher on this one: “Never throw away any vegetable or its leaves or its juices unless they are bad; else count yourself a fool.”
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We’re no baker—and why should we be with the abundance of gorgeous goodies for sale within striking distance of home? But our kid likes the homemade loaves we make, and anyone will tell you kids make you do some crazy things. Plus, let’s face it, those artisan loaves ain’t free. So we stood in the kitchen stirring together yeast and water and flour, salt and oil. Strangely simple, this link to a time before freeways and student loans and metaverses. We kneaded and waited and waited some more, slept, woke, folded again, and let it rest. We fretted a bit, too. And then, oven temp cranked, we offered the loaf up to the cubby of searing, transformative heat. And it worked: a crisp shell gave way to a steaming world within, firm and soft and simple as the winter sky is blue.
As of press time, there were still openings to take NM Fungi’s Master’s Mushroom Grow Course this weekend. The two-day class includes everything you need to start growing your own, including hands-on instruction and a grow kit. If you’re into mushrooms in a less hands-on way, you might enjoy this collection of seasonally appropriate mycelium pics.
The Vegan Chef Challenge is underway in Santa Fe. The good news is that if you’re not up for hitting all of these venues in one month, you can dine vegan at most of them any old time.
If you can’t wait to celebrate Valentine’s Day, or you’re looking for an alternative because your favorite candlelit spot is booked, M’Tucci’s is offering a five-course dinner and cocktail pairing Thursday, February 9.
And if Valentine’s just isn’t your thing (trust us, we get it), consider celebrating your friends at Soo Bak Seoul Bowl’s Palentine’s dinner on February 13. There will be cocktails, there will be mocktails. There will be seaweed, there will be birria. There will be Korean fried chicken.
The same night, Farm & Table is hosting a dinner called Modern Love. We’re not going to speculate on what that means, but we will say that the esteemed North Valley venue is also hosting an ongoing series of Chef’s Tasting Menus, with seatings every Wednesday through the end of March (and no correlation to roses or serials).
Next Saturday, Chocolate Fantasia descends on the streets of Silver City, bringing a wealth of family-friendly activities and a whole lot of, yes, valentine-ish treats. For a rundown of the town’s wider culinary highlights, like Iron Door’s smoked mac and cheese and fried chicken with chowchow at Two Piece Fried Chicken, check out The Bite’s “Insider’s Guide to Silver City Dining.”
“Everywhere wolves will go and everywhere wolves have been,” one UC Berkeley professor told Ryan Sabalow of the Sacramento Bee, “they bring out a mirror of our emotions and our worries and our concerns and our values.”
A group of fifth graders from Las Cruces is pushing to make the aroma of roasting green chile the official state smell. According to one of the youngsters serving as expert witnesses at the Roundhouse this week, passage of the bill would make New Mexico the only state with an official smell. (We also boast a state tie, the bolo, and a state aircraft, the hot air balloon.) According to a fiscal impact report on the matter, the designation could help New Mexico gain a tourism edge against that mountainous state to our north. But, the report warned, it could also stir unrest among those who favor red chile or Christmas.
“Not to stereotype, but mushroom people are just cooler than a lot of other folks.” Obviously, Matt of Matt’s Mushroom Farm might be a little biased. But if you want to become one of those people and can’t make the aforementioned class, he also sells grow kits.
And speaking of Korean–New Mexican fusion: Soo Bak chef John Katrinak on the origin story of his delicious tacos.