Monday, July 26, 2010

New York - July 26, 1788

As best I can tell, New York state is divided into two parts: New York City, and everywhere else - also known as "upstate". I am actually not sure which of these two categories Long Island belongs to, perhaps it is a third area simply known as "the suburbs". I have been to several places in New York, including the city, and Long Island, as well as Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Lowville (where my daughter loves to go to Camp Unirondack, the Finger Lakes, Pooughkeepsie, and Albany.

Crazy Unitarians visit the Niagra Falls UU Church in 2008

Paloma & Kit at the American Girl Cafe 2005

Pam, Paloma and "Kit" enjoy Times Square 2005

Pam & James on Keuka Lake 1986

No Impact Man
About 15 years ago I decided to ride the simple living wave. I really like it. My house is relatively uncluttered, I discovered I enjoyed cooking, and I made new friends. The waters of the simplicity wave are generally smooth, and occasionally I manage to get a friend or acquaintance to join me in riding it. I read everything I could about simple living, and within about five years I realized that there was no new information for me, all the simple living writers were just recycling all the other writer's ideas. So I was glad to learn about Colin Beavan - No Impact Man. Beavan lives in Manhattan and in 2007 decided to see if he could live for one year without any negative environmental impact. He did this along with his wife and baby daughter. The Beavan's go way beyond "simple living". Their experiment meant not only switching to cloth diapers, but also washing them by hand, and learning to live with the rythms of the daylight, and eating only local food, among a lot of other things. Beavan's book, No Impact Man came out last year, as did the documentary of the same name. Thus, my New York book and movie are tied together.

The Beavan's tried many different things, and they didn't give everything up at once, and some things they learned they really couldn't give up. They gave up on giving up coffee, for instance. No small wonder there. Growing peppermint in the windowsill in order to make herb tea as a substitute? I have made peppermint tea myself, from the mint growing in my garden. I've got nothing against it. It is pretty good, in fact, but I would never, ever consider it a facisimile of coffee. By the way, unless a beverage is made with plant camila sinensis it is not really tea, it is more correctly, an "herbal infusion", so we learned on our trip to the South Carolina tea farm.

I recommend watching the movie and reading the book. They complement each other. Each tells things that the other does not.

I am a little bit sad that  I don't think either the book or movie mentioned was libraries. Perhaps Beavan did, but I usually note such a thing with a yellow sticky, so I remember to blog about it. I would think a person who is not buying anything new would be using the library more.

I will say I was most impressed with Michelle Conlin, Beavan's wife who was addicted to designer clothes, furs, and reality television before their experiment, and gives it all up, and likes it. When I first started reading the book I saw her as a person I didn't really want to know at all, but by the time I finished it I wanted to be her best friend.
It is a small world of "year of" experiment books. Beavan mentions two that I read: Judith Levine's Not Buying It, and Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet by Alissa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon.

In January of this year I tried the one-week No-Impact experiment as outlined by Colin Beavan. I learned that I could tolerate my house colder than I believed, and that I wasn't walking to nearly as many places as I could, especially given that I purposefully bought a house in the center of town so I would be close to things. Anyone can sign up for the one-week experiment. Register here.

I was tickled to find a recipe for Horn & Haardart's Macaroni & Cheese when searching for New York recipes. H & H was the original "automat"which "featured food behind tiny glass windows that was acessed by putting a few nickles in the slots." Baked macaroni and cheese is the original comfort food, and this recipe was especially good. We shared it with our friend Lisa, & Rob and their children (ages 13 minus one week, and seven). I don't think it is a coincidence that after eating this meal (in which everyone at the table became a member of the clean plate club) our two going-on-thirteen-year-olds asked to play Apples to Apples with both families. The recipe can be found here:

For dessert we had chilled Strawberry soup - simple recipe made with fresh and frozen strawberries, heavy cream, a bay leaf, cinnamon and honey. These were blended together in our trusty Oster blender. Again, it was enjoyed by all. 

We also enjoyed Chardonnay from the Palmer vineyards in Aquebogue, (Long Island) New York; Ice Apple Splash from the Sheldrake Point which James picked up at the Ithaca Farmer's Market last weekend on our way back from visiting our daughter at camp.

Lowville Memorial Park - July 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Wyoming Glories and Wonders

As Pam mentioned, Wyoming is one of four states I have visited that she has not. The others are Montana, South Dakota, and Iowa. Montana I first visited the day before I was in Wyoming and South Dakota, the day after -- during the longest car ride of my life (8,500 miles in 17 days in a 1960 VW bug). Iowa I know only from traversing it a half dozen or more times when I lived in Kansas City but had church-related activities -- and a girlfriend -- in Minnesota.

So my experience in Wyoming was brief, entering through North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park after a McDonald's breakfast in Bozeman, Montana -- where I should have stopped to look for ghosts of Robert Pirsig, or at least some landmarks from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. My friend Mike and I were on a rather un-Zen tour, though, going as quickly as a 1200-cc motor could take us from one end of the country to another to another and back. (I later worked with lawnmowers that had exactly half the horsepower of that bug. I am grateful that the 62-mph top speed and lack of A/C did force us to take in a good portion of what we passed through. In fact, I can remember most of that brief transect of the northern edge of Wyoming, which would not have been possible had I been in a more modern car.

When we entered Wyoming, in fact, we were already in Yellowstone National Park -- its northern fringe is in Montana and its western in Idaho. The official park entrances on those sides are on the state lines, a few miles inside the park itself. Founded in 1872, it is the oldest of the parks and one of the largest (larger than the combined size of the two smallest states). It ranges in elevation from one mile at its lowest to over two miles at its highest, with annual rainfall ranging from 10 inches (drier than Tucson) to 80 inches (wetter than New Orleans). (See the Yellowstone Fact Sheet for more superlatives.)

During our brief stay, we of course went to Old Faithful and to the seven-story, log Old Faithful Inn. Because of some images I had seen in a calendar, though, our real interest was in the lesser-known ponds, pools, and mud pots, where very fine differences in temperature and mineral content have created features with an incredible array of colors, shapes and textures -- most notably the Morning Glory Pool shown above. Throughout our trip, we tended to drive by night and sleep by day, so that after visiting a few of these features, we simply took a nap along the trail -- enjoying our blankets recently purchased in Mexico (I still have mine) and oblivious to passersby. We were also oblivious to the warning signs for the area we had chosen to nap, which read DANGER: THIN CRUST. We were apparently risking a very serious geology lesson!

From Yellowstone we set to the east. I remember stopping in Cody just after dark for gas and coffee (we drank absolute swill on this trip, by the half-gallon). I recall a lot of trucks, something about a rodeo, and a lot of big guys with cowboy hats and short hair. Given the state of my hair at the time, not to mention my newly-acquired garb from Mexico and our tiny little VW, this whole scene made us a bit nervous. We gassed up and chugged away, through the Big Horn mountains, where we were treated to a fantastic lightning storm, which we followed from a safe distance. My last memory of Wyoming was another gas and coffee stop, possibly in Gillette, where I noticed some teenage boys playing behind the store. No basketball hoop was needed -- just a pole, with which they were getting some lariat practice.

Before it was even a state, women could vote in Wyoming. In 1869, the territorial legislature declared: "That every woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in this Territory, may at every election to be holden under the law thereof, cast her vote."

The story -- including several theories about how and why -- is told in Wyoming: The Freedom State, one of the Women of the West online exhibits at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles.

Oblique reference is made to the Western suffrage movement in this educational video, at 0:17 and 2:33, a reminder that although it took several generations to succeed, the national suffrage movement did build on the success of Wyoming women.

Wyoming is known as the Freedom State because women earned not only the right to vote but also the right to serve on juries and in public office in Wyoming before they did anywhere else in the United States.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wyoming - July 10, 1890

Wyoming - one of those "yet to be visited states". I know this song from Wyoming, which I sang in the fourth grade chorus during the spring concert at Johnnycake Elementary School in Catonsville, Maryland:

As I went a-walkin'

One mornin' for pleasure,
I spied a cowpuncher
Come ridin' along;
His hat was throwed back,
And his spurs was a-jinglin'
And as he approached,
He was singin' this song.

Whoopee ti yi yo,
Git along, little dogies,
It's your misfortune
And none of my own;

Whoopee ti yi yo,
Git along, little dogies,
You know that Wyoming
Will be your new home.

It's early in spring
That we round up the dogies,
And mark 'em and brand 'em
And bob off their tails;
We round up our horses
And load the chuckwagon,
And then throw them dogies
Out onto the trail.

Whoopee ti yi yo,
Git along, little dogies,
It's your misfortune
And none of my own;

Whoopee ti yi yo,
Git along, little dogies,
You know that Wyoming
Will be your new home.

It's whoopin' and yellin'
And a-drivin' them dogies,
Oh, lord, how I wish
That you would go on;
It's a-whoopin' and punchin'
And go on-a, little dogies,
'Cause you know that Wyoming
Is to be your new home.

Whoopee ti yi yo,
Git along, little dogies,
It's your misfortune
And none of my own;

Whoopee ti yi yo,
Git along, little dogies,
You know that Wyoming
Will be your new home.

Some cowboys go up the trail
Just for the pleasure,
But that's where
They always go gettin' it wrong,
For nobody knows just what
Trouble they give us,
As we start a-drivin' them
All the way home.

Whoopee ti yi yo,
Git along, little dogies,
It's your misfortune
And none of my own;

Whoopee ti yi yo,
Git along, little dogies,
You know that Wyoming
Will be your new home.

Our music teacher explained to us that the word "dogies" was pronounced with a long O and that it meant cattle. The closest encounter I have had with Wyoming was that when I was in libary school in Arizona I knew two people who were from there. I have asked James to write about his own experience in Wyoming, which he will do in a separate post.

Rising From the Plains
It is one of my great embarassments in life that I have not had a science class since 10th grade Biology with Mr. Germana in 1980. I have tried to make up for my lack of formal education in this area by taking advantage of informal educational opportunites whenever I can. Another advantage to living in Arizona, besides meeting Wyomingites for the first time, was that we could take weekend trips to the Grand Canyon. On two of these trips I took advantage of the free "Geology Talks" offered by the National Park Service  (never let it be said I do not get my money's worth from my tax dollars)! From these half hour lessons I learned enough about plate tectonics, and how the Grand Canyon was formed that I can explain it to others, and I was also able to apply the knowledge about how the Canyon was formed to another gorge I saw that went straight down (it was made entirely of hard rock, whereas the GC is a combination of hard and soft rock). Anyway all this is a prelude to my discussion of Rising From the Plains by John McPhee, recommened to me by James, and available from our "top shelf" books at home (there is a letter from McPhee tucked inside this one, for more about our top shelf books see my essay "Rubbing Elbows with the Authors", but again, I digress). This book is about geology, and it was written in such a way that a layperson could understand it, and I am also glad I knew what plate tectonics were before I read it. McPhee artfully weaves the personal story of Wyoming Geologist David Love with the Geologic history of the state. The writing is nothing less than poetic. Wyoming is a state of extreme weather, especially when it comes to wind and snow, and the effects of such is clear through McPhee's travels with Love.

I learned a great new word from this book ananym - a name derived from spelling one's name backwards (i.e. Alemap). Also, I was happy to come across the word "lee" meaning shelter. Something I started doing earlier this year while I was on sabbatical was the newpaper crossword puzzles. A common clue I came across was "towards shelter". In short order I learned the word "alee". This book provided me with my first encounter with lee meaning shelter: "Moving farther from the interstate on the sub-summit surface, we came upon a granite pyramid, sixty feet wide at its base. It....weight six thousand tons-enough to prevent its blowing over. We stood in its lee." Reading doesn't get much better than that!

Although this is a great book for novice scientists, and experienced geologists alike, it is not a book for young earth creationists, which is driven home in this passage:

"We passed St. Matthew's espiscopal Cathedral, which also - as Love had reason to regret - contained in its walls brachiopods, crinoid, and algal buttons. He once taught Sunday school there. He took the kids outside and showed them the fossils in the church walls. He described the environment  in which the creatures had lived. He mentioned the age of the rock. He explained how things evolve and the fit prosper. Here endeth his career in seimentary theology."
For more about Wyoming Geology see:

The Laramie Project
Has it really been 12 years since Matthew Shepherd was brutally beaten and left for dead, tied to a fence post in Laramie, Wyoming? The Laramie Project is a movie based on a play of the same name, which was based on interviews with residents of Laramie following the death of a gay, young college freshman. The movie comes off as a documentary, but recognizable big name actors (Jeanine Garafalo, Christina Ricci, Peter Fonda) make it clear that this is a dramatization. The film not only examines the lives of the citizens of Laramine, who were both directly and indirectly effected by the tragedy, but also how it effected the lives of the interviewers. Although there appeared to be genuine shock about the murder among the residents of Laramine, and the fact that it was perpetrated by two of their own, one telling remark near the end of the film resonated loudest to me: a year after the murder, after the trials and the sentencing, no new laws protecting gays had been passed in Wyoming. Have there been any changes since then?

One thing I have learned from doing this project is that America is most definitely not a vegetarian society. Although I am not a vegetarian, I do try to eat low on the food chain, and eat a lot of vegetarian meals. I look for meatless dishes when I research recipes for this blog, both for myself and in deference to my vegetarian daughter, but I didn't even try when it came to Wyoming (although you can find some vegetarian restaurants there, using this guide.) Wyomingites are a beef-eating people, indeed according to the Wyoming Cowgirl recipe website "Despite the advice of the 'food pyramid,' meat has always been our mainstay - the biggest portion on our plates - like a big, warm blanket smothering all those grains, fruits, and vegetables". I followed her homey directions for "Rib Stickin' Ranch Vittles" of steak, biscuits and gravy, and enjoyed some true comfort food. James had to help with the gravy, I didn't know how much milk to put in. My daughter is away at camp this week, so I did not have to offend her sensibilities with this meal. We also added some fresh peas to our plates. I just couldn't serve this meal without some sort of vegetable to go with it.

One final note: we shared out meal with our newest family member "Minnie" a one-year old Miniture Pincher who enjoyed her serving of beef.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Washington, DC - Signing of the Federal Residence Act July 6, 1790

"Washington was a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm," said President Kennedy.

James works a lot with International Students. He likes to pose this riddle to them: I was born in the United States, but not in a state. Where was I born? Some will guess Guam, or Puerto Rico, or perhaps an international military base, and eventually one will figure it out: Washington, D.C. Although our Virginia post claims him as a Virginian (his family did live there when he was born) he is actually among a very elite set of people who were born in the Nation's capital. Look at those cute little feet!


Since we both grew up near Washington, going there for us was "just another field trip." We never had to fundraise to go there, nor was it a big deal to vacation there. Indeed, what kind of a vacation would that be?! And so it was that we realized, with some chagrin, several years ago, that our daughter had never really been to the land of her father's birth. We drove through it at least once a year on our way to visit James' grandmother, and each time we would dutifully point out the Washington monument. We eventually remedied this with a bus tour in 2007. We saw all the monuments, (even the ones James and I had not seen before) and visited the museum of Natural History, the Holocaust museum, and the Hirshhorn musuem of Modern and Contemporary Art. We had the opportunity to visit this last one again a few weeks ago, along with the Air and Space Museum. All of these are part of the Smithsonian Institution, and all are free of charge - always - thanks to the gift from British scientist James Smithson in 1826. 

Community Garden across the street from Air and Space museum, downtown Washington, D.C.

So, why did I pick July 6 to celebrate Washington, D.C.? I actually had to do a little research today to remind myself! I remember thinking I could have picked other dates, but as it turns out July 6, 1790 was the date that Federal Residence Act was signed, which selected the Potomac River as the nation's capital in "ten years time" the capital would remain in Philadelphia until then. One thought I had for a date to celebrate was March 29. On that date, in 1961, that Washingtonians finally got the right to vote for President as the 23rd amendment was  ratified.

1791 plan for the nation's capital

Horror in the Wind
Back in 1987 newlywed couple Pam and James, afraid that a televangelist named Pat Robertson might become president of the United States, contemplated packing up all their belongings and taking a U-Haul to Canada. The spoof, Horror in the Wind, which featured President (Pat) Robertson, was a manifestation of those fears. A pair of scientists, who are cheating with each other's wives, are looking for a formula to keep rats from mating. In his endeavor to win his "war on sex" President Robertson offers the duo a grant of $20 million to instead create an abstinence formula, which he says he will offer to parents to give their children. They are also to create an antidote to administer once said offspring enter into "a Christian marriage". After the entire nation is sprayed with the new drug it is discovered that what it actually does is change sexual orientation: gays are now straight, and vice versa. With the president enjoying his new vice-presidential partner and his approval rating at whopping 90% he withdraws all funding to create the antidote. The scientists, who are now lovers, nevertheless continue to try to formulate the antidote. The film is quite funny, it does make one wonder to what extent some would go instill their beliefs on others, though. For a more scholarly view of some of the themes this movie explores I recommend Marty Klein's book America's War on Sex: the Attack on Law, Lust and Liberty

Is My Armor Straight?
Well, I couldn't resist this one when I read the subtitle: "A Year in the Life of a University President". Not only was this a "year of" book, it is about college during the 1983-1984 academic year - when I was a sophomore at the University of Maryland - a time of leg warmers, Jane Fonda, Michael Jackson, and the Pretenders all of which are referenced in the book. The University in the case of this book is American University and the President is Richard Berendzen. This book is a real who's who of Washington from the time period. It was kind of fun to read this knowing now what happened to that up and coming congressman from Tennessee (aka Al Gore). And at the dawn of the computer age Berendzen wonders if people really will have social lives online, or shop without leaving their homes. I did have a hard time stomaching all the praise lavished upon then President Reagan in this work, however.

Since I work in a college now I could see that even 26 years later, some battles are universal. While I felt for Berendzen in some cases for the tough decisions he had to make, I could also sense my own tension growing as I recognized similar issues facing our college to which I am squarely on the opposite side of the fence.

As a President of an international University Berendzen is often called upon to talk about the state of education in the United States. Since he is a physicist and astonomer I was never quite sure what his qualification with regard to K-12 education was.

The best thing about this book was that there were too many mentions of the library to count!

The index is next to useless though. The only entries are people's names. While it is true that the whole book was about name dropping, a few other references would have been in order. At one point I wanted to re-read a passage about foreign language education, and found the index to be of no use in this regard.

Georgia Brown French Toast
"Washington is a big brunch town" so says this National Geographic article (with recipes), so James took the challenge and made the Georgia Brown French Toast. A heroic feat given Bridgewater's triple digit outside temperature, and our un-air conditioned home. This biscuit-based french toast though, with triple sec in the batter, was exceptional. We probably won't make it again until temperatures cool again, though. It does seem to be a feast for a "special occasion" so I have declared it our new Christmas morning meal. We also had some blueberry wine to go with this, one of the Virginia wines we picked up on our recent travels.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Declaration of Independence signed July 4, 1776

Normally, an Independence Day celebration in Bridgewater for us involves a parade, an ArtsFest, a cook-out at our friends the Woods' home, and of course a big fireworks display. On this Fourth of July, however, we were driving our daughter to Camp Unirondack. This is a fifteen hour round trip for us, so we left at 7:00 a.m, before our street was closed for the parade (as it always is), and the extent of fireworks was what we could see of other cities' and towns' displays as we traveled along the Mass Turnpike. We got back to Bridgewater well after the festivities had ended here.

We did have a lovely day, though. After dropping our daughter off we took a slightly different route than we normally do in order to stop in Bridgewater, New York. Read abut what we found there on our Bridgewaters Project blog. The Village of Bridgewater, New York is just a bit south of Utica, where we typically hop on the Thruway for the ride home. Rather than making "good time," we opted for "good time" (thanks to Robert Pirsig for that distinction), and took a Blue Highways route toward home.

In the process we visited at least two New York counties we had missed previously, and will have to update our maps accordingly. The drive was lovely, as the sunset behind us seemed to last for hours, and filled the landscape with a golden glow. We enjoy old New England houses, especially those with great porches and other architectural treasures. This route was full of satisfying discoveries, as a beautiful agricultural landscape was punctuated with charming downtowns every five to ten miles until we reached the northeastern (and most charming) fringes of Albany.

We were reminded of an important lesson: sometimes it is OK to ignore the GPS. "She" is an optimizer, always looking for the most expedient route, and sometimes that is not the best route!
(Click to enlarge route map.)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Idaho - July 3,1890

"Free 'Tater's for Out of Staters" read the sign outside of the Idaho World Potato Exposition when James and I were traveling through Blackfoot in 1993. Well, how could we pass that up? After visiting the museum which featured everything potato, including Mr. Potato Head, we were treated to a lunch of a baked potato, and the only payment we had to procure was demonstration our Arizona drivers' liscenses. You can't beat that for kitsch, unless it is a giant potato statue!

I also remember seeing some beautiful scenery and waterfalls all throughout our drive across Idaho, and some surreal landscapes at Craters of the Moon National Monument. This was my only foray into "the Gem State".

Idaho: A Guide in Words and Pictures
I've been thinking since I began this project that I should probably read at least one Works Progress Administration (WPA) Guide. The Federal Writers' Project WPA Guides were a project of the New Deal during the Great Depression to put writers to work. One guide was written for each of the 48 states in existence at the time. These guides include information on the flora and fauna, government, education, legends, history, and travel, among other things, for each state. Whenever I looked at a catalog record for one of these guides, however, my eye would be drawn to the page count, which is usually in the 500+ range. Given that I am trying to read 52 books in as many weeks I have, until now, passed on reading one of these guides. I was delighted to see that the guide for Idaho had a page count of only 300. It turns out it was the first such guide published, perhaps after it was published the WPA decided to start including other things. This guide is a real treasure trove of information, and I was surprised, too, to see the relatively sensitive treatment of the history of the Nez Perce tribe in something that was written in 1937. Likewise I was surprised to see lawyer Clarence Darrow's name show up twice. Short on photographs, which I imagine cost a lot to publish back in the day, exquisite descriptions of plants and animals were how these writers earned their bread and butter. While this book generally sings Idaho's praises, there are some instances in which the authors included less-than-favorable information about the state

"In the emphasis it has placed on education, in its scorn of illiteracy, and in its resourcefulness in stretching dollars to their farthest reach, Idaho had been educationally progressive. It is is still one of the most backward States in the care it gives to those unfortunates who do not fall within the normal curriculum. In progressive Eastern States the less extreme cases of emotional instability are not incarcerated until efforts have been made to restore them to serviceable citizenship; but Idaho  is a young State and has not yet got around to a more charitable and enlightened view of neurotic persons."

One thing that kept me on guard reading this book, written almost three quarters of a century ago, was that references to historial time periods such as "the 'seventies" meant something quite different to the first readers of this book, than they do to me.

On a final note, I always include any mention of libraries or librarians in books or movies. I was pleased to see this volume praised a worthy librarian thusly:

"If a town can be summarized by a single quality, than perhaps the most notable characteristic of Blackfoot is the fact its indefatigable librarian made of this city not only probably the most book-concious one in the State but also lifted its taste in reading far above the usual levels. This circumstance is all the more remarkable when the books in this small library are compared with those in other public libraries in Idaho, and when it is remembered that all the books in all the public libraries in the State do not add up to more than half a million."

Latter Days
When party-boy Chrisitian makes a bet with co-workers that he can seduce one of the Morman Missionaries who recently moved into his  Los Angeles apartment building he is just as surprised as Elder (Aaron) Davis is when they fall for each other in the film Latter Days. As we watched this movie which I had seen before, but James had not, he commented, "so this is an Idaho movie that doesn't take place in Idaho?" Most of the action does take place in California, but when Aaron is discovered kissing Christian he is sent back to his Pocatello, Idaho home in shame. He is devastated by the lack of support or love his family demonstrates for him, whom he mentioned earlier in the film that he missed...and liked. His church rather callously excommunicates him for his "alternative lifestyle" to which he responds that the Mormans, with their historically polygamist marriages were the founders of "alternative lifestyles." Ultimately his parents send him to an institution for "curing" gays. This is a movie about self discovery, and finding family.

Our feast today is based on a recipe from the Idaho Potato Comission brochure that we picked up in the aforementioned Potato Museum for Idaho Potato Crepes. We have held on to the brochure all this time, but this is the first we have made a recipe from it:

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese
3 T flour
2 eggs
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground pepper
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (the recipe calls for swiss, we used sharp cheddar)
4 c. grated potatoes
3 T heavy cream
4 T chopped green onions
butter or margarine
The recipe also calls for (optional) mushrooms. Unable to figure how they would enhance this at all, we opted out.

I topped mine with plain yogurt and honey. An absolutely sublime meal.