Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
When Orion, our one-year old, is awake, I get no writing done, save the shortest of emails, as in, “Thanks.”
This morning, I dropped our five-year old, Mariel, at school, and walked home, shuffling the order of assignments I needed to tackle today: a revision for GOOD; edits on an AFAR project; a new piece (my first) for VICE; two chef profiles for The Latin Kitchen; finalizing the transcription of my interview with Ruth Behar for Los Angeles Review of Books; and working on the text for the website of a friend. Plus, there are appointments for phone and in-person interviews to be made, published pieces to be promoted, and a couple ideas to pitch out to editors.
In short: a full work day.
I turned the key in the lock and heard “Ahhhh,” the “Good morning” sound Orion makes, and immediately started reshuffling. For four hours, at least, I wasn’t likely to get much of anything done- at least not in the writing department.
I could pack him up and head out to the library or I could go tackle something else on the “Rest of My Life” to-do list… something like doing a deep clean of the kitchen, Orion’s favorite place. He could pull pots and pans out of the cabinet while I scrubbed and consolidated and organized. And so it was settled: we would clean the kitchen while Francisco and Olivia slept and Mariel learned something, we hope, of value at school.
A few days ago, I’d spilled a cocktail shaker inside the fridge (of course) and in the process of cleaning up that mess, I’d found a package of dried wild mushrooms that have been taking up residence there since 2012. I put them in a bowl, poured hot water over them, and let them steep, moving the bowl from one place to another over the next two days while I decided what to do with them.
As we finished cleaning, I was confronted once again with the mushrooms. Either I had to use them or lose them, so I picked Orion up and headed to the computer. “Mushroom gravy,” I thought, but Google returned something better. Yes, wild mushroom risotto. Perfect for an overcast fall day.
We had all the ingredients (well, most of them; those we didn’t have could easily be substituted- red onion for shallots; two slices of bacon for pancetta) and so I set to chopping and stirring. Orion, hoisted over the stove, stirred enthusiastically. I felt accomplished: here we were, in the middle of a workday, making risotto for lunch. We even had a salad leftover from last night’s dinner and a Riesling from Long Island, picked up during Francisco’s visit there last week.
I served a bowl for us to share and Orion climbed atop the table, not willing to wait for spoon or fork to be lifted to his mouth. Hand dipped in the risotto, and then the wine, he grinned and laughed, and I was reminded again of how grateful I am to be able to work from home, even if it means continually reordering most of my days to shape themselves around my kids’ needs.
Making the risotto also reminded me of a curious encounter I had while walking with Mariel in Mexico City a few weeks ago.
Hurrying along from one appointment to the next, I was distracted by a sudden pop of sunset orange splayed on the sidewalk. Mushrooms! There was a blanket topped with gorgeous, damp mushrooms and a basket of beautiful, plump morels, the biggest I’ve ever seen. Leaning over them was a man whose face was wrinkled by years spent in the sun. Ever the writer (no off-switch, remember?), I started chatting him up, building up to the ask: his contact information. I was too busy to stand around and learn more about his mushrooms at that moment, but I wanted to know more… maybe even write a story about him and his wares, displayed humbly on a sidewalk in one of Mexico City’s ritziest neighborhoods (hey, the man is no dummy). But he rejected my request, as was only right. If I wanted to know more, I had to come back, he said. No website, no email, and no, he wouldn’t give me a phone number. Only his name: Francisco. Si, Don Francisco, I will be back. Back to learn all about your mushrooms.
If you’d like to make wild mushroom risotto, this is the recipe I used. As I said, I substituted bacon for pancetta and red onion for shallots. And the mushrooms I used were a mix– I don’t really think you have to use the specific ones she calls for here; whatever you have on hand will do just fine.