There are lots of stories to tell right now. But I don’t want to tell any of them. Reality does not suit me at the moment. Instead, I will tell you a different sort of story.
Something that gives me hope and joy lately is the little Writing Club that meets in my classroom each Thursday. One of my students, Aubrey, started this club of her own initiative. She plans lessons each week and leads a handful of her fellow students through creative writing exercises. Then they share what they’ve written and scamper off to their homes. Last week they created a superhero and wrote a story about him. Another week they listened to songs and wrote stories inspired by them.
The only week (so far) that I’ve been able to participate in the writing exercise was the first week. That week, they came up with a list of ten random words and then wrote a story with them. The words were:
backpack animal crackers grocery
Here’s the story I came up with:
The sun was dying. I sat on the last patch of grass on the last hunk of dirt on the last chunk of Earth. Just me and the cockroach. I pulled out my chapstick and slathered it on my sunburned lips. For the millionth time since the war, I wished for a grocery store. I wasn’t persnickety, but the weevils I dug out of the moist earth each day for my meager meals were infinitely less satisfying than a plump banana, a pack of animal crackers, or a slice of freshly baked pumpernickel bread. I found myself thinking of my grandmother. I would never see her again. I would never see any of them again.
It was a Tuesday — not that that meant anything anymore — the 159th day since the end of the war, according to the notes I’d been keeping religiously on my arm with a sharpie I’d found in the bottom of my torn backpack. I was flabbergasted to see the sun rise over my tiny vestige of Earth. It was bright red, hot with the anger of death I recognized from my memory: I’d seen so many of the Frontier soldiers fall with that same anger, combusting in their hearts as their bodies combusted literally, smouldering in a spray of enemy fire. There’s only one thing that sun could mean: it was almost time.
I looked down at the cockroach, my only friend left in the world. I might have been imagining it, but he looked just as flummoxed as me at the sight of our dying star. I let him crawl up into my hand and held him, my tiny family, while the heat grew stronger and stronger. Soon it would become too much for us. Soon, my little friend would perish. Then finally, I, too, would be consumed: the last of the human race.
Apparently when given words such as banana, animal crackers, and chapstick, my first thought is doom and destruction. This reminds me of my 7th grade student who, while doing a word association with the word marigolds, first thought of the word “death.” I kid you not. That little girl is basically a younger version of me.
Anyway, since I don’t love any of my real-life stories right now (or at least, not at this particular point in their plot arch), I thought I’d share that one.
…And some stuffed mushrooms, which are much more cheerful. I think we need some cheer after all that. Well good news: these were basically the highlight of my week. They’re luxurious (cream! mushrooms! leeks! Gruyère!), indulgent, and altogether such a delicious, hearty way to start the day. The two forks may suggest that someone shared these with me, but I’m going to admit that I ate them both myself and was not sorry.
Now it’s your turn to tell a story. Write a mini-story using these 5 words: disco, poodle, tangerine, shallow, and rutabaga.
One year ago: Twice Baked Cranberry & Pancetta Sweet Potatoes with Balsamic Glaze
Two years ago: Three Safe-to-Eat Cookie Doughs: Chocolate Chip, Sugar, and Cake Batter!
Three years ago: Majestic Imperial Fantabulous Sheet Cake o’ Love
Breakfast Stuffed Mushrooms (Portobellos Stuffed with a Leek and Gruyère Scramble)
Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, inspired by Alexandra’s Kitchen
Yield: 2 servings
Who says you can’t have stuffed mushrooms for breakfast? These giant portobello mushroom caps are stuffed with a caramelized leek scramble and topped with melty Gruyère cheese.
2 large portobello mushroom caps
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and few grinds pepper, divided
1 teaspoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon cream
1 tablespoon butter (Plugra or Kerrygold or another European brand is great if you have it)
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese (or Fontina, Swiss, Parmesan)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Clean the leeks: Slice off the tough, dark green top and the root and discard. Slice the leek lengthwise down the middle. Then slice horizontally into thin half-moons. Fill a bowl with cold water and place the sliced leeks in it, separating the layers with your fingers and agitating them a bit in the water. Let these sit for 1-2 minutes until the dirt and sediment trapped in the leeks has settled to the bottom. Scoop the leeks off the top of the water with a slotted spoon and place them on a bed of paper towels to blot them almost dry. Elise over at Simply Recipes has a great photo tutorial of this step.
Clean the mushroom caps by brushing gently with a wet brush. Remove the stems from mushrooms and gently remove gills with a spoon. Brush the mushrooms with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a couple of grinds of pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes (depending on the size of the mushroom) or until they are nicely roasted but still holding their general shape. After you remove the mushrooms, turn the oven down to 350 degrees F.
While roasting the mushrooms, preheat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Pour in 2 teaspoons of olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add minced shallots and sauté for 30 seconds until fragrant, stirring constantly. Add the leeks and toss them to coat with oil. Sauté until they start to brown, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain for a bit.
Whisk together the eggs, cream, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and a few grinds pepper really well — until there’s no more gloppiness in the eggs. Turn the skillet up to medium and let it preheat for a bit. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in it (it should sizzle but not brown). Pour in the egg mixture and scramble until the eggs are just underdone (they should still appear wet.) Add in the leeks and scramble for another few seconds. The eggs should still have the soft just-undone look but not look quite wet anymore.
Spoon equal amounts of eggs onto each roasted mushroom cap. Top both stuffed mushrooms with grated Gruyère cheese. Place the stuffed mushrooms in the oven until the cheese is melted and the eggs are just done — just a few minutes. Remove from the oven, grind on a last grind of pepper, and serve immediately.
deborahMarch 19, 2013 at 3:28 am (10 years ago)
Wow! great story! I could see it, hear it, taste it and most importantly empathsize. thank you
SamanthaMarch 19, 2013 at 5:48 am (10 years ago)
Just wanted to say, I love your blog! Found it from the baking community on lj, and I wish I had time to read more of your previous posts… the combination of teaching lit and baking is awesome! I’m a professor of literature myself and love cooking, and it’s so inspiring to read about what you do with your food and your students.
Marigolds, in flower language, mean grief, cruelty and/or loss. They are still used in Day of the Dead ceremonies in South America and Central America… So associating marigolds with death is actually pretty normal, I’d say. Marigolds and Chrysanthemums, and Lily of the Valley are all flowers I’d immediately associate with dying. I think Ray Bradbury used marigolds in a story about dying, but can’t remember off the top of my head which one it was.
Anyway, back on topic (a bit too late), I’d love to try making this dish. It looks delicious! If I can find some portobello mushrooms, I will try it. They are hard to come by where I live. 🙁
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 19, 2013 at 11:56 am (10 years ago)
Samantha, I can’t wait to tell my student this! She had no idea why they made her think of death. She will be tickled at the connection. Thank you for sharing!
Candice @ The Savory and The BeautifulMarch 19, 2013 at 10:40 am (10 years ago)
You are such a great writer. Your blog has become one of my favorites. I will attempt to write a story over at my blog and link it back to you. Thank you for the motivation and inspiration.
Amanda @ Once Upon a RecipeMarch 19, 2013 at 6:18 pm (10 years ago)
These look fabulous, Julie. I love mushrooms, especially portobellos, and the other ingredients here have my mouth watering. I can’t imagine not having a great day after eating these for breakfast. I was never a good storyteller, so I’ll leave your challenge up to your other readers! 😉
PS. Hope your real-life stories start feeling happier very soon! xo
Mushrooms CanadaMarch 19, 2013 at 7:03 pm (10 years ago)
These sound amazing! With spring right around the corner these colourful treats will certainly be a hit at my breakfast table…thanks for sharing!
Tracy @ Parties and PearlsMarch 20, 2013 at 12:37 pm (10 years ago)
No story here but I love the idea of having the scrambled eggs on mushrooms! I am getting tired of English muffins, which is the way I usually do it. Great idea
Vickie S.March 20, 2013 at 1:57 pm (10 years ago)
I just love your site! I’m expecting dear friends from out of town soon and this will be the first breakfast I make for them……no doubt this recipe is a keeper!
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 20, 2013 at 7:10 pm (10 years ago)
Thank you, Vickie! I hope they really love them — I think they’re perfect for guests!! Let me know what you think!
fallconsmateMarch 21, 2013 at 4:36 pm (10 years ago)
there once was a little POODLE named shadow. she was a landshark. oh, she did not actually *beg* for anything but string cheese, but she would wind in and out of the legs of the table and of the chairs, hoping that something wonderful would indeed drop from the forks of the people dining at the table. RUTABAGA was once presented in a SHALLOW spoon, but she turned her little nose up at it with disdain.
however, when a TANGERINE that had been in a serving of fruit salad made of cottage cheese, cool whip, jello powder, pineapple tidbits, TANGARINE(S), blueberries, and chopped pecans fell on the floor, she was so very happy that she started DISCO dancing to the music that was playing while dinner was being eaten. that was the first time DISCO had been danced to “paradise by the dashboard light”!!!!
(how amused were you??)
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 21, 2013 at 4:44 pm (10 years ago)
I laughed all the way through!! My favorite part by FAR was when she turned up her nose at the rutabaga with disdain 😉
AubreyMarch 22, 2013 at 9:58 pm (10 years ago)
I walked down the narrow sidewalk staring up into the dormant trees, their branches cascading down to touch the tops of the cars as they drove by. Sometimes the smallest things in nature are the most beautiful. Why is it we only notice what is right in front of us, instead of really seeing what is all around us?
As I continued to walk, I lost all cares, and was lost in my surroundings. I listened to the birds as they sang in perfect harmony, I heard the frogs croak and bellow, and touched the wind as it trailed by, leaving only the faintest chill to give you a memory of it’s appearance. Suddenly I heard it. The sound of rushing water.
I had been coming to this place ever since I was five. I had first discovered it when playing hide and go seek with my friends. I ran into the woods to hide, and knew I had found my paradise.
Now, in front of me lay a SHALLOW stream with small pebbles dotting the bottom of it. On the bank of the side farthest from me, lay an old, rusted bench. To you this may seem like a normal place, but to me, it was a place no one knew of. A place I could go to when I was frustrated or annoyed. It was mine, and because of that, it would always hold a special place in my heart.
I sat down on the old bench, and watched people walking by from afar. The first person to be seen was a young woman, maybe thirty-five years old. She was wearing a POODLE skirt while eating a TANGARINE. She wore bright red lipstick, and black converse. After every step, she skipped once. I wondered why. Maybe she was happy. Maybe she just did this naturally. Whatever the reason, I would probably never know for sure.
The woman walked on, oblivious to my curiosity, and after had left my viewing range, I heard my stomach roar. I reached into my pocket for the snack I had gotten for myself. When my hand emerged, I found part of my favorite dish wrapped in tin foil. Inside the foil lay my famous RUTABAGA casserole. It was the only thing that I could cook that I actually liked.
As I quietly chowed down on the leftover casserole, I noticed something sticking out of the ground a mere foot away from me. I set down my meal, and walked over to the object. After a few mere minutes of digging, I uncovered the mysterious object which was actually just a small earing made to look like a DISCO ball. I myself would never feel the need to wear something this flashy, for I wasn’t the type of person to draw attention to myself. I hung the earng on a nearby tree, for it seemed a better option than just letting the earing sit in the ground. I then sat gingerly back down on my bench, and continued to eat my casserole.
Carol | a cup of mascarponeMarch 23, 2013 at 4:33 pm (10 years ago)
These have to be one of the best recipes I’ve come across in a long time – genius!! The consummate brunch treat!