I spent a significant portion of my life steadfastly maintaining that mushrooms were for trolls. Most kids would have been content to simply wrinkle their noses and refuse to eat mushrooms, but I built up an elaborate justification for my distaste: namely that mushrooms are squishy and grow in wet, woodsy places. Where trolls live. And, what with my not being a troll and all, I couldn’t reasonably be expected to eat them. Of course, then I became a vegetarian, so I couldn’t reasonably be expected to eat cute little animals who had lived lives of suffering and misery either.
I can be rather difficult at times, which is probably why those who knew me in my troll-food days feel particularly vindicated when I call them to enthuse about an upcoming mushroom festival or to describe the day I spent helping a farmer inoculate logs with shiitake spawn or to report that I’ve just eaten an entire morel and asparagus pizza and boy was it yummy.
I’ve never been especially good about New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I’m opposed to self-improvement, it’s that I have trouble equating newness with the barren bleakness of January. I tend to make my resolutions at the beginning of the school year, when the world seems as new as a freshly sharpened pencil or a class roster filled with unfamiliar names. The arbitrary New Year in January, then, is merely an excuse to drink champagne.
However, in the weeks preceding the advent of this particular new year, I’d given a lot of thought to leafy greens. I frequently resolve to eat more greens, often going so far as to purchase lovely, crisp bunches of them and then watch them wither away in my refrigerator for lack of inspiration. But then I met Alice Waters. Well, I didn’t so much meet her as I read a biography of her, which prompted me to buy a few of her cookbooks and experiment with a bunch of her recipes, as a result of which I really started to get this whole leafy greens thing.