The Middle Ages: My salute to May, a month of mothers, milestones and stuffed mushrooms

Try these May munchies: stuffed Portobello mushrooms, topped with “goo-hair” cheese. Just don’t ding me on the presentation.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

Consider May a moment. It’s a month of milestones — grads, moms and Memorial Day marching bands. Too warm for wool, so break out the tonic and limes. Throw on a cotton jacket, if you take a jacket at all.

Got a nice one at the charity thrift shop the other day. You know I can pinch the copper right off a penny, right? I used to brown bag my lunch, and I trend toward vintage cars and older women.

See, once you have children, there is never enough money, and your instincts are to be financially fretful so that you can leave these little people — the ones you’ve toiled for every stinkin’ day — a little chunk of cash at the very end, so they’ll say nice stuff at your funeral.

As if we need to bribe them one last time?


Anyway, the thrift store sports coat cost 7 bucks, which is more than I wanted to spend. But it fit my Woody Allen shoulders as if tailored, with lapels as wide as my forehead.

I’d wanted something in seersucker for my older daughter’s Derby de Mayo party, but you don’t see a lot of seersucker in California. It would go well with the scenery: the ocean, UCLA pennants and Charlize Theron’s eyes.

For some reason, though, seersucker has never really taken off here, though we seem to have every other kind of sucker you could ever imagine.

Me, for one.


I was happy with this jacket, though. At the thrift shop in our precious little town, most of the donated clothes are hardly worn, and there is rarely a ratty sleeve or a button missing.

You’re just required, almost by law, to have a 30-minute conversation with a cashier you don’t really know, but with whom you have mutual friends … blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It’s a special kind of hell, but as I said, I really liked that jacket.

I also bought a Ziploc bag full of used baseballs — real leather — for 3 bucks.

Good hardballs cost $5 apiece these days, which is just outrageous. For that, you can almost get a very nice sports coat.

As you know, I live with the sorts of people who hold breakfast conversations when they’re brushing their teeth.

I left the store light of heart and a little more dapper, out barely 10 bucks. Lately, we celebrate the littlest things. As I told Posh, we never want to develop “Xanax Face,” that blank L.A. expression you use with strangers in the store (a.k.a. the “Gelson’s Grimace”).

We’re Irish, I reminded her, so we refuse to give in to sadness.

“You’re Irish, not me,” Posh said.


Now she tells me?

As you know, I live with the sort of people who hold breakfast conversations when they’re brushing their teeth. I can’t understand them when they’re not brushing their teeth, let alone when they’ve shoved an electric toothbrush and a big schmear of Colgate into their enormous mouths.

You can imagine how that goes. In many ways it’s even worse than the conversations at the thrift shop.

Fortunately, failed human encounters always push me outdoors, where the other day I celebrated May with a recipe a coworker mentioned: Portobello mushrooms stuffed with sausage and spinach and topped with Gruyère cheese, a cheese that one site described as “creamy and nutty when young.”

Like, who isn’t?

Almost immediately, these grilled mushrooms were all I could think of. The only challenge was that, even sober, I discovered that I pronounced Gruyère as “goo-hair.”

My lips just refuse to say anything but “goo-hair,” and the workers at the market struggled with my request, since I say “goo-hair” with a wobbly French lilt I picked up back in high school while trying to mimic De Gaulle.

“Où est le goo-hair?’’ I ask at the market, and the clerk looks at me quizzically.


“Goo-hair, goo-hair,” I repeat, and the clerk spins and heads to the dairy case.

As you can imagine, a portobello mushroom stuffed with spinach, sausage (turkey or pork), a bit of bacon and topped with goo-hair is a culinary Triple Crown.

Just don’t ding me on the presentation: Nothing I make winds up symmetrical or faintly photogenic. Except my kids, of course.

Recipe: Marinate the mushrooms in red wine for an hour, then scoop out the stem and gills … drink the remaining wine, then burp. Pre-cook the sausage and bacon in a skillet, adding spinach last. Rub the mushrooms’ little rumps with olive oil, stuff them with the mixture and grill over medium heat for five minutes, stuffed side up.

With two minutes left, add the “goo-hair.”

As we French say: Bone ay petite!

Erskine’s new book, “Daditude,” a collection of his favorite Times columns, is available in bookstores and online. For info and signings, go to

The columnist welcomes new members to his Happy Hour Hiking Club, which meets monthly at trails and saloons across Southern California. To take part, email the columnist at

Twitter: @erskinetimes