On the Boston restaurant scene no name stands out like Ben Maleson and his partner, the always smiling Mai Jing, they a married couple.
Ben was a sympathetic and likeable person despite his disconcerting appearance. He had an attractive, sad smile that lit up when he spoke about mushrooms or Mai-Jing.
Much of Ben’s body had been disfigured from his youth from a fire in his parents’ South End townhouse in which he was the unfortunate victim.
He hid his disfigurement as well as he could by staying fully clothed, including gloves with their fingers cut to permit his own digits the freedom he needed to work.
Only his face was exposed to public scrutiny, even on the hottest summer nights, when he delivered today’s gleanings.
He reminded me of Clive Revill’s Fagin.
Our relationship began unexpectedly, when carrying a large flat basket heaped with wild mushrooms, he walked into Dom’s on a cold call, Mai Jing several hesitant steps behind him.
The image was compelling.
He didn’t have to say a word.
“I’m Ben Maleson, a mycologist.
I’m setting up a business to supply better restaurants with wild mushrooms, continuously throughout the year.
I’ll be going to other restaurants but if you sign on, I can use your name as a reference to encourage others.
I’ll always make sure you have a varied and ample supply.”
I not only signed on but I even helped him price his mushrooms, convincing him to move from his first, tentative pricing of $11.00 a pound to a robust and firm $15.00 per pound.
Despite the cost of his product, his business soon grew so that he rarely had leftovers.
When he did, he always counted on Dom’s to buy extra.
We always did, believing in protecting a rare and wonderful resource.
Often he delivered at dinnertime.
He was never an intrusion.
He would relax in the kitchen discussing the cleaning and preparation of his harvest with our home-grown chef, Frankie Castellano, an Italian Communist by way of Argentina.
Frankie would listen with one ear, prepare nice plates for Ben and Mai Jing to eat, and direct the busy kitchen.
When I could, I enjoyed eavesdropping on their earnest, amusing and respectful, if disjointed, conversations.
High up on their list of compelling reasons for patronizing Dom’s, business groups loved the permeation of theater throughout the meal. Ben often joined me in the dining room for our mushroom act.
That came about because of Ben’s need to recite the exploits of the day’s gathering.
And you had to spend time listening to his spiel or risk hurting his feelings.
From the first time Ben presented as he showed me his ‘harvest’ and his face lit up, I recognized that his art and enthusiasm created a natural presentation brilliantly appropriate for all of Dom’s many different audiences with the shared interest in good food and interesting presentation.
I asked Ben if he would share his experiences with my customers and he jumped at the chance to have a share of the limelight.
So a tradition was born.
On the twice-weekly occasions that Ben arrived at the restaurant with his beautifully arrayed basket, we walked the basket through the dining rooms in tandem, me introducing and he dramatizing the basket for the entertainment of our honored guests.
“My friends,” I would say to command attention, “Permit this brief interruption for a presentation by my friend and accomplished mycologist, Ben Maleson, who has brought us some wonderful, wild mushrooms which we are offering to you as a separate course for your dinner tonight.” I stepped behind Ben who, proudly displaying his basket of mushrooms, went into his routine.
“These are Chicken-of-the-Woods, and these, black trumpets, a very choice, flavorful mushroom. These are lion’s mane with a flavor like lobster and crab. We have pom-poms, several morels and white chanterelles. The chanterelles weren’t around two days ago but I knew that conditions were right for them and I should check it out in 24 hours.
“When I got to the area, several people were walking nearby so I had to wait a while for them to leave: I didn’t want them to see my spot. Finally they left and when I got to the spot, voila! They had arrived! And here they are for you!
“These are Japanese mushrooms called shimeji; they're very tasty, with a peppery flavor. Porcini have a full flavor and a meaty texture. These caps are very large, the best size, if you can find them. Finally, we have the beautiful funnel chanterelles.”
“Simply. Local fresh cream, French brandy, Irish butter, sea salt, pepper and fresh, finely-chopped Italian parsley.”
Julia Child was in one day for lunch and fortuitously for us, she caught the act and enjoyed it, asking Ben questions about himself and his occupation. She and her husband, Paul, ordered a plate each.
We still love mushrooms.
Monday, January 7, 2019
My 270th consecutive posting, committed to 5,000.
Time is 12.01am.
On Monday, Boston’s temperature will reach a high of
30* and a feels-like temperature of 25*.
We continue with our perfectly acceptable winter weather, easy enough for which to dress.
Dinner is a grill of pork chops, hot Italian sausage, and pork ribs, all with vinegar peppers and fried potatoes.
__________________________Question of the Day:
What is fantasy?
Love your notes.
Contact me @ email@example.com
From Tommie Toner referencing the post dealing with losses making winter bleaker.
Been to two funerals in the last weeks.
Today was Leigh's second grade teacher - a caring, kind, lovely woman and had a profound impact on hundreds of children.
Taught 34 years.
Web Meister Responds: In the last several days, many notes received on losses. We love you all.
But I’ll add here that simultaneously, our friends are also bearing children, today a beautiful girl to a lovely couple.
Some ice skating on the Frog Pond within the Boston Common.
Everyone’s having a great time.
Answer to Question:
What is fantasy?
Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction set in a fictional universe, often without any locations, events, or people referencing the real world.
Its roots are in oral traditions, which then became literature and drama.
From the twentieth century it has expanded further into various media, including film, television, graphic novels and video games.
Fantasy is distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the absence of scientific or macabre themes respectively, though these genres overlap. In popular culture, the fantasy genre is predominantly of the medievalist form.
In its broadest sense, however, fantasy consists of works by many writers, artists, filmmakers, and musicians from ancient myths and legends to many recent and popular works.
Most fantasy uses magic or other supernatural elements as a main plot element, theme, or setting. Magic and magical creatures are common in many of these worlds.
An identifying trait of fantasy is the author's reliance on imagination to create narrative elements that do not have to rely on history or nature to be coherent.
This differs from realistic fiction in that realistic fiction has to attend to the history and natural laws of reality, where fantasy does not.
An author applies his or her imagination to come up with characters, plots, and settings that are impossible in reality.
Many fantasy authors use real-world folklore and mythology as inspiration; and although another defining characteristic of the fantasy genre is the inclusion of supernatural elements, such as magic, this does not have to be the case.
For instance, a narrative that takes place in an imagined town in the northeastern United States could be considered realistic fiction as long as the plot and characters are consistent with the history of a region and the natural characteristics that someone who has been to the northeastern United States expects; however, if the narrative takes place in an imagined town, on an imagined continent, with an imagined history and an imagined ecosystem, the work becomes fantasy with or without supernatural elements.
Fantasy became a genre of pulp magazines published in the West.
In 1923, the first all-fantasy fiction magazine, Weird Tales, was published.
Many other similar magazines eventually followed, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction; when it was founded in 1949, the pulp magazine format was at the height of its popularity, and the magazine was instrumental in bringing fantasy fiction to a wide audience in both the U.S. and Britain.
Such magazines were also instrumental in the rise of science fiction, and it was at this time the two genres began to be associated with each other.
By 1950, "sword and sorcery" fiction had begun to find a wide audience, with the success of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian and Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories.
However, it was the advent of high fantasy, and most of all J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which reached new heights of popularity in the late 1960s, that allowed fantasy to truly enter the mainstream.
Several other series, such as C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia and Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea books, helped cement the genre's popularity.
The popularity of the fantasy genre has continued to increase in the 21st century, as evidenced by the best-selling status of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series and George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series.
Good morning on this Monday, the 7th day of January.
We talked about Ben and Mai Jing and mushrooms.
Tommie shared some losses with us.
We admired a photo of a sunrise and we looked at people having fun ice skating.
Finally we talked about fantasy.
Che vuoi? Le pocketbook?
See you soon.