The Crush Letter No 165: A Lite Letter & Morels

. 8 min read

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Hello Crush,

Happy Saturday morning.

Congratulations to CRUSH Readers who are Celtics fans! Eighteen, wow! Boston is such an overperformer on the national sports stage, and it’s one of the funnest things—if not the funnest thing—about being a Bostonian. 

If you’re in the Northeast, where I’ve spent the week, I hope you managed to stay cool during the heat wave! I’m in New Hampshire, 40 miles north of Boston visiting with family and friends. It’s been quite a busy week, so this week’s Letter will be an atypical, abbreviated version.


Foraging for Friends

On Tuesday night I went to a four course Morel Dinner with my friend, Lisel.

Lisel and I have been close friends for over 20 years. She’s the one who discovered this dinner gem. She knew I was in the area spending time with my family and I opened my text Monday morning to find the above invitation from her. “Do you want to go to this with me?” she wrote. “Absolutely,” I responded, in under a minute.

Lisel is a real adventurer and particularly good at unearthing groovy, offbeat things. (She just returned from a trip with her daughter through Uzbekistan.) Lisel and my adventures together have included trekking in the Western Sahara along the Algerian border, thrifting in Stockholm, skiing down to Chez Vrony—the best place to eat in Zermatt, as well as getting swooped up in a protest on our way to the opera in London. (I almost lost her in the Covent Garden subway when I felt her grab my hand and pull me past a scary looking dude in black with arm bands.) We even got kicked out of a hammam in Madrid once, for nudity. (That was my fault, but here’s a tip: the small print SE REQUIEREN TRAJES DE BANO means bathing suits required.)

At the Morel Dinner, after lubing you up with the “fancy schmancy mushroom drink,” a Chanterelle Tini, this was the menu:

At the dinner we spotted two free seats next to a stylish, funky looking young couple and grabbed them. Turned out that one of them, Liz, runs a top tattoo studio in Boston, and bikes (including through the icy winter months) 40 minutes along urban streets each way to work five days a week. Which means she is one tough cookie, because there aren’t safe bike paths along many of the cramped, winding Boston streets and it can be dangerous for biking. Her husband Gustavo teaches studio art classes at the Museum of Fine Arts, and on weekends ends forages for mushrooms. One of the most wonderful things about sitting next to them, besides the fact that they were original and interesting, was their palpable excitement for being there. They very humbly shared toward the start of the meal that they rarely spring for eating out, so this was a special occasion for them. It was such a sweet thing to share, and it elevated the night.

It made me realize that there’s very little that outdoes the energy of enthusiasm at being there in social settings. The other thing I was reminded of was how Lisel can carry on a conversation with absolutely anyone—the genuine curiosity she shows in everybody and her natural warmth really light up a table. It’s such a pleasure to be around, and everybody feels it.

On our other side was Tyler Akabane, who is affectionately known in fungi circles as “The Mushroom Guy.” Tyler runs Boston’s only shop dedicated to fancy mushrooms, The Mushroom Shop in Somerville. He is the fungi purveyor of choice for all of the area’s top restaurants. During the pandemic, when restaurants weren’t in business, he offered a home delivery service for regular mushroom lovers, like Lisel and Me. Like a farm share, you never knew what you were going get, which added to the excitement of opening up his packages.

My nephew lived with me during that dark and monotonous period and it was THE highlight of our week to open up Tyler’s drop off to find the most beautiful chanterelles, morels, shitakes, maitakes and hen of the woods. Whatever was the best of what Tyler could get his hands on scouting sources from Maine to the Cape. We were trying to perfect our thin crust oven pizza recipe over the pandemic, and we used Tyler’s offerings as toppings for that—and also planned entire meals around the mushrooms. When Lisel invited me to the Morel Dinner I had no idea we’d be setting next to Tyler, a local celebrity in certain circles here.

This is Tyler. Featured in Edible Boston. Photo credit: Andrew Janjigian.

Over the dinner, Lisel and I took a deep dive into learning about the Boston Mycological Club, one of the oldest, largest and most prestigious mushroom clubs in the United States. It “exists to bring together all those interested in fungi.“ Members encouraged us to join, telling us that it was a warm, welcoming and interesting group of people. We felt that. Looking around The Mothership, the restaurant where the dinner was held, I noticed that there were quite a few people who showed up solo—members of the Boston Mycological Club— including a beautiful woman in her thirties sitting at the head of our table. The dishes were served family style with settings for eight, so the whole set-up was friendly and inviting. For conversation starters we had the scrumptious dishes (and other ways to cook mushrooms) as easy jumping off points.

Oh, and the meal was delicious! The ricotta agnolotti with morels, asparagus and pea tendrils was my favorite dish.

Photo from the Instagram account for Tyler’s page @themushroomshopsomerville

It was a fun night. It could have gone either way, and it ended up great. CRUSH Readers often ask me how to broaden their circle, to make new friends after 40, and it struck me that this is the sort of thing you have to consider doing. Opening yourself up to adventures next door like this, even subcultures you didn’t realize you might fit into.

Foraging for friends, let’s call it.

Culture / Comments. By Dish Stanley

Speaking of foraging, traveling home I did a lot of foraging on Substack and I unearthed a few things I thought you might be interested in:

Paul Newman’s Hamburger Philosophy.

“I’ve started making them since I picked up a copy of his vital 1985 Newman’s Own Cookbook …” From the always entertaining Substack, The Melt by Jason Diamond:

Paul Newman’s Hamburger Philosophy
Chuck, baby, chuck


I love Jason Diamond—longtime CRUSH Readers may recall me sharing his piece from 2022 in GQ—How Francis Ford Coppola Taught Me to Dress Like a Big Guy.

He wrote, also for GQ, one of my favorite takes on The Bear (LESS than a week away from Season 3, Bear fans!):  How Ebon Moss-Bacharach Gave The Bear Some Teeth. On his meet-up with Moss-Bacharach: “The last time I was in this particular spot … it was the early aughts, I was 24, and my old roommate was meeting up with his coke dealer.”


A Real Hairless, New Yorker.

“When you tell people that you lived in New York City in 2001, there are a lot of questions that come up, and none of them are about your pubic hair.” It’s a terrific and comical reminiscence on that moment for women after Carrie from Sex and the City got a Brazilian bikini wax, from The Blonde Mule on Substack.

The Blonde Mule | Kim | Substack
A newsletter about what I’m interested in: books, pop culture, social media and cats. Assuredly will also talk about aging, divesting from diet and wellness culture and my eternal quest for good plus-size jeans. Click to read The Blonde Mule, by Kim, a Substack publication with hundreds of subscribers.

Expiration Dates.

“The most important expiration dates are not those on food, subscriptions, insurance policies or medicine. 

These dates are known.

It’s the expiration dates that are unknown that matter the most."

Poignant writing from Rishad Tobaccowala on how to know when to leave things—like a career, or a relationship.

Expiration Dates.
The Future Does Not Fit in the Containers of the Past. Edition 201.

The Banishment of Beauty from Everyday Life.

“Not long ago, these small acts of beauty and care were pervasive in daily life. You could see them in luggage tags, stationery, clocks, lamp posts, even sewer covers.” A thoughtful contemplation on the power of everday beautiful things.

The Banishment of Beauty from Everyday Life
What happens when a slapdash and uncaring aesthetic permeates everything?

Roger Federer’s Dartmouth Commencement Speech.

This one was not on Substack, but if you missed it, Federer gives some guidance to new graduates as he contemplates his own midlife pivot after retiring from tennis. “Like you, I’ve finished one big ting and I’m moving on to the next. Like you, I’m figuring out what that is.” We are often encountering pivots at this stage of our lives, so this was worth listening to.

I have poor wi-fi where I am with my family in New Hampshire, and I’m taking that as a sign that instead of working and writing I ought to be taking in the blessings of this time with family and friends. In other words, maybe I’ll see you again next Saturday morning? Maybe not.

I’ll be thinking about you, though, CRUSHes. Have a good week.

Dish Stanley XO,
Dish

If you love me as much as I love you (and I really do love you!), then please help me grow by forwarding this {love} Letter to a friend! And I'd love to have you join us on instagram.

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