My Auntie Em’s Cookbook sits locked inside my house, perched on a dusty, cluttered kitchen counter. I and my family, meanwhile, sit outside the house, perched (when not at work and school) in our 16-foot Bambi Sport Airstream trailer in the driveway.
Why the city-limits camping? It’s Week Eleven of our house remodel and floors are being “installed”—an odd term, as if we’re uploading software into each slightly out-of-date room. The project extends from north to south, end to end. Only the bathrooms are untouched.
I guess I could unlock the back door, twist around and grab the cookbook from the kitchen while avoiding the still-drying, stained floors. But why? Cooking has been reduced to the occasional creative pairing of one leftover with another, the inspired addition of a grilled-cheese crouton to an otherwise standard leafy green salad.
Last night, stepping into the “galley,” as Airstream calls the cooking zone (many boating terms reappear in the trailer world), I rifled through the mini fridge and found Roxy’s penne from dinner out the night before. I also spotted a carton of brown mushrooms. Excitement!
I washed them carefully in our shoebox-sized kitchen sink, pulled out a mini flexible cutting board from one of the two overhead storage bins, grabbed a knife from the drawer near my knee below the sink, and sliced those mushrooms. Next, I pulled out the mini frying pan, which we store in the microwave when it’s not in use, lifted the protective glass top from our “range” over the fridge, and lit the far-right pilot with a flamethrower (actually, a propane lighter). Then I grabbed the olive oil from our “pantry”—the roomy, long drawer that’s located under one of the bench seats in our eating area—and drizzled a swirl into the pan. Feeling fancy, I added a bit of butter, and, once the pan was hot, the pile of mushrooms and some herbs de Provence.
I love these herbs of the Provence. I bought them at a little stand in Pasadena that’s nothing but powders and teas and other dried stuff. The herbs de P smell so powerfully—a heady combination of lavender, oregano, thyme and whatever else is in there—that they put all my other tired spices to shame. Good thing those are all in the house, getting dusty, while the herbs are with us in the trailer.
While I sautéed the mushrooms for about five minutes, I marveled at the fact that we (or, I should say, some of us) even eat them. Wikipedia defines mushrooms as “the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting bod[ies] of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source.” Dictionary.com goes one better, saying “any of various fleshy fungi including the toadstools, puffballs, coral fungi, morels, etc.” Take your pick: both sound like a scourge from the End of Times. And yet mushrooms are miraculous little packages of flavor, architecture and health—as well as excellent excuses to eat olive oil and butter.
As Jon helped Roxy finish up her homework (she’d already scarfed a plate of chicken nuggets and green beans), I zapped the penne in the microwave, wiggled two bowls from the nested pile in our upper storage bin, and dished out equal portions of the pasta and the mushroom sauté. Then I unearthed two forks (again from the knee drawer) and poured glasses of sparkling water. Plunking down beside Jon on the bench seats bracketing the table—the table that would later be magically pulled from its slot in the wall and converted into a sleeping platform for Roxy—I took a breath and then a bite.
Magical, those mushrooms. Deeply flavored, satisfying; reminiscent of forest floor and hikes and camping.
Yes, even camping on a street in Los Angeles.