MEATLESS MONDAYS... pop up in people's minds about 52 times a year, give or take, if the people are into following the semi-recent tradition of sticking to plant-based suppers on the first day of the week. But we'll wager that the concept receives more thought, and research, when the new year arrives, what with all of the resolution-making about better health and a different diet and food choices that make us full of pep and glow. January, in short, is a fine time to kick off a year of Meatless Mondays, many of which will likely involve a certain cap'd foodstuff that springs from the ground in whimsical, almost storybook fashion. True, you can do Meatless Monday without mushrooms, but portobellos and chanterelles do have a knack for creating a hearty character with little to no effort. If this idea jazzes you, and you've always counted yourself as something of a mushroom maven, then circle the second week of January on your calendar and circle the Louden Nelson Community Center on a map. A bevy of mycologists and fungi fans'll make for Santa Cruz from Friday, Jan. 8 through Sunday, Jan. 10 to discuss all things fungus and have some fun(gus), too.
"A RE-CREATED WOODLAND FOREST... displaying hundreds of mushrooms" will be on display at the 42nd annual Santa Cruz Fungus Fair, and there'll be a chance to engage in "clay mushroom building." Talks on taxonomy, knowledge-filled experts experting on various myco topics, and those all-important cooking demonstrations fill up the busy days, days that do attract mushroom buffs by the thousands. It's a big month, January, for mycology mavens, not just with the new year's resolutions about healthier food picks but because January is such a prime time for all things fungus in California (look to Big Sur and Napa Valley, which each have their own fungus- or truffle-focused doings during the first month of the year). Is this your moment to bone up on the famous gift of the forest floor? To gain smarts on all things shroomy? Stow your Meatless Mondays planner for now and find your way to Santa Cruz, lovers of stems and caps and lore and hearty, deep-flavored vittles.