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The Carnitas Burrito at El Tapatio in Guadalupe. Fr. Ian’s very first wet burrito!
Credit Fr Ian M Delinger

Fr. Ian explores the origins of and the innovations with everybody’s favorite foodstuff – The Burrito! From a college town to a farm town, Fr. Ian travels the length of the Central Coast to get to the bottom of the burrito…in more way than one.

Looking inside the Carnitas Burrito at El Tapatio
Credit Fr Ian M Delinger

The making of the California Burrito at Super Cuca’s #3 in Isla Vista
Credit Fr Ian M Delinger

Fr. Ian dives into his very first California Burrito at Super Cuca’s.
Credit Fr Ian M Delinger
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Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz has become the epicenter for the treatment of mushroom poisoning in North America.  A doctor there began working on a cure a decade ago after a family of six become deathly ill from eating wild mushrooms.

 

To find out how easily that could happen I set out with mushroom forager Phil Carpenter.  He’s been mushrooming since he was a kid.  

 

Carpenter steps off his front porch and looks around. “There is one right there, there some up there. So let’s go ahead and do some walking,” he says as he points to mushrooms scattered across his yard. When he bought this home in Aptos, he specifically looked for a place where he could forage for mushrooms just outside his door.   

 

He shows me up a steep hill into his backyard forest. “You really do need to be careful. I mean, in California, in Santa Cruz county we figure we have about 3,000 different species of fungi, or mushrooms.” he says. Of those 3,000 mushrooms, only a handful in this area are poisonous.

 

Carpenter kneels down next to a round, white mushroom. “Ok, so let’s go ahead and dig this thing up,” he says as he digs the sail with a trawl. “You have to get down quite a ways underneath the mushroom.”

 

He digs up two mushrooms: one edible, one dangerous.  And to me, they look identical.

 

“See this big membrane that the mushroom stem is sitting in? That is the universal veil of the genus Amanita.”

 

All Amanita mushrooms have these distinct membranes and look the same to the amateur eye. Most are edible. But two are deadly: the Death Cap and the Destroying Angel. What makes them so dangerous is they contain a poison called amatoxin.  Even one bite can cause liver failure, requiring a liver transplant or ending in death.

 

At Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, Doctor Todd Mitchell has treated dozens of patients with this type poisoning.

 

“Many patients have told us that the mushroom themselves are among, if not the most delicious mushrooms they’ve ever eaten in their entire lives,” he says. “We call this the famous last words of amatoxin mushroom poisoning.”

 

A decade ago Mitchell began working on a cure for amatoxin mushroom poisoning.  He developed what’s called the Santa Cruz Protocol.  It outlines step-by-step how to treat patients using an intravenous drug made from milk thistle. Mitchell is now leading a study of the drug, which he says is the first to track the treatment’s success.

 

“Our results demonstrate that when our protocol is followed to the letter, from the time of presentation, that we are able recover almost every single patient,” he says adding that in the last ten years, the drug has saved nearly 100 patients nationwide. “The outcome of complete recovery is extremely gratifying. Its fantastic. You are basically giving people a brand new lease on life.”

 

Mitchell works with other doctors across the country to administer the drug using the Santa Cruz Protocol. His is working to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which he says is not far off.  

 

Back at his home in Aptos, mushroom forager Phil Carpenter removes a tray of cookies from the hot oven.

 

“We’ll leave those set for a while until they cool of for a bit,” he says, “Then we will give them a try.”

 

Jars of of dry mushrooms fill his kitchen cabinets. He says he eats 50 different kinds. These sugar cookies are baked with candy cap mushrooms. He offers me a cookie, and I take a bite. The cookie tastes sweet with hints of maple.

 

“Did you ever think you would be eating mushrooms in cookies,” Carpenter asks.  “No, but I trusted you all along,” I reply.

 

Most of the mushrooms Carpenter eats he finds within a short walk from his home.  It’s the benefit of living here and knowing what to look for.   

Teresa L. Carey is a graduate student in the Science Communication Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. @teresa_carey

 

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Fifty-year-old Teresa Gomez moved to the United States as a young woman with one goal: to support her aging mother in Mexico.

For decades, Gomez has sent her mother a third of every paycheck. She organizes merchandise and attends customers at a Barrio Logan grocery store. Her mother has heart problems, and uses the money to survive in the southern Mexican state of Jalisco.

“I send her $400 every two weeks,” said Gomez, who has dual U.S.-Mexico citizenship. “I provide for my mother.”

But that money – known as remittances – may soon be in jeopardy. President Donald Trump has threatened to target remittances as a way of forcing Mexico to pay for his planned border wall, which will cost anywhere between $5-25 billion.

Gomez doesn’t think that would be fair. She’s a U.S. citizen as well as a Mexican one.

“How are you going to punish so many citizens who come as workers, with good thoughts and acts in this country?” Gomez asked.

Remittances to Mexico reached a record $27 billion last year, representing the largest source of foreign income for the country after auto exports. Immigrants in California sent the largest chunk, $8 billion.

Gomez, a single woman, said she wouldn’t be able to afford a tax on remittances. She rents a small room in a Barrio Logan apartment, where she lives with her talkative conure parrot, Kiko.

“We came here with the American dream, not to be millionaires, but simply to live decently and help our families,” she said.

Gomez is one of millions of Mexicans in the U.S. who send money to relatives south of the border. She sends the money through a small money-transfer shop, El Frijolito, which charges a fee of five or ten dollars, depending on the desired exchange rate. Others use larger transfer organizations such as Western Union.

The recent surge in remittances was due in part to fears about Trump’s threats. The owner of El Frijolito, Mariceli Castro, said money transfers surged the day after Trump became president.

“The lines were all the way to the door, people were sending large quantities of money, a lot of people were selling everything they had in the bank,” Castro said.

She said if Trump targets remittances, it would be devastating for her business and her clients.

“Most of (my customers) have an honest job, earning money with the sweat of their foreheads just so they can send it home,” Castro said.

Targeting remittances may be trickier than Trump has outlined in his campaign memos. Policy experts have said that a tax on remittances would unnecessarily hurt all money transfers to Mexico, including those by Americans.

“It would have to be broadly applied – it would be, basically, a tax on electronic transfers,” said Gordon Hanson, dean of UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy. “The thing is, what’s the difference between an electronic transfer that is a remittance versus a transfer between two business entities? On paper, they look identical.”

Hanson said a tax or ban on remittances would be devastating for Mexican-Americans and the San Diego economy in general, not just people who are in the U.S. illegally.

“You look at our construction industry, you look at bars and restaurants and hotels so the San Diego tourist industry, go into any San Diego neighborhood, who is caring for yards, who is cleaning houses and providing child care?” he said.

Gomez said she will find a way to send her mother the money she needs for medicines and food – no matter what.

“As a human being, or rather, as a Mexican, nothing is impossible,” she said.

If need be, Gomez could cross the border to transfer the money in Tijuana. She would have to contend with three- to four-hour wait times at the ports of entry, but she said it would be worth it.

For immigrants who live far from the border, or who lack legal immigration status in the U.S., it’s more complicated.

Marina is a 37-year-old immigrant who asked us to keep her identity secret for fear of deportation. She cleans houses and takes care of a two-year-old girl, sending about $500 a month to her mother in Mexico City. She is also single.

“I never go out – it’s rare for me to go watch a movie or eat with a friend because I’m always working,” she said.

She said she moved to the U.S. when she was 21 years old, in 1999, to support her mother, and that Trump’s threats scare her because her mother depends on her. She said she is afraid of going back to Mexico, where homicides rose by 22 percent last year.

“When I talk to my family, they tell me every day it’s worse. They’re even afraid to go out into the street because they killed someone here, they killed someone there,” she said.

She said if Trump wants to build a wall, he should build one – but she hopes he finds another way to pay for it, because she can’t afford it.

“I respect the new president because this is simply not my country,” she said. “But I’m not robbing money as some people say. I work.”

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Water levels in Lake Mead, which stores water for Arizona, California and Nevada, have plunged in recent years. If levels drop below a certain point, they trigger an official shortage.

The three states are trying to avoid that.

Federal water managers say there is a 50-50 chance water levels in Lake Mead will fall below 1,075 feet above sea level, or about 35 percent capacity for the reservoir. That’s the point at which federal rules will kick in mandating radical cuts in water taken from the Lake.

Chuck Cullom, of the Central Arizona Project, says Lake Mead is quickly approaching the need for those mandated cuts.

“In January of 2000, Lake Mead was at 92 percent of capacity. On Jan. 1 of this year, Lake Mead had about 36 percent of storage capacity,” said Cullom.

Lake Mead is the largest man-made reservoir in North America. It has about 25 million acre-feet of storage.

Arizona, California and Nevada continue to negotiate a Drought Contingency Plan.

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January’s extreme rainfall — though a welcome blessing for many— poses a serious problem for San Luis Obispo County’s homeless community.

57 people lined up outside the Prado Warming Center in San Luis Obispo last Sunday to escape the heavy downpours. Grace McIntosh with CAPSLO, a non-profit that provides county homeless services, says the rainy season is stretching out the staff of the Prado Center as well.

“We’re short staffed. And they’re all in overtime. I think we’ve been open now maybe 21 or 22 days so far, and all last year, we were only open 18,” McIntosh said. “I know we need the rain, but come on already, give us a break.”

For all of San Luis Obispo County, there’s only one day center — the Prado Center and one overnight center — the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter. They’re about three miles apart. But when the weather gets really bad the Prado Center opens up its doors to those in need of a place to stay.

Hugh and his wife Grace gave a tour of the Day Center. They live in a homeless encampment but last Sunday, they slept here, on the floor. According to CAPSLO, between 2500 and 4000 people in San Luis Obispo County don’t have a place to sleep at night. By comparison, the city of Seattle, which is over two times bigger than the entire county, has just under 3,000 people who are homeless.

Hugh says they’re making do. Despite camping outdoors every night, he and his wife are the backbone of Prado’s kitchen. They arrive at 7 a.m. to serve breakfast every morning. Yesterday, he made 130 pancakes.

“It’s been tight fit around here lately because we’ve had a lot of people come in. But no complaints, no hassles..I’m a firm believer that if you keep everyone full, it keeps everybody happy,” Hugh said.

This sentiment echoes around all around the Prado Center, who are doing what they can to make it work. The Center only has three full-time staffers during the day, and Jamison Remmers is one of them. Working at the Day Center, he says, has given him a renewed sense of empathy.  

“I thought I knew what it was like to be homeless, what kind of people were homeless but I honestly had no idea,” Remmers said. “First of all, it could happen to anybody. It’s not like there’s a certain person that it happens to.”

Remmers says about 60 percent of those who come into the center are suffering from mental issues. Support, he says, also comes from simple acts of kindness and friendship.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people and they feel less than human. They call people with jobs and a house “normies” and “redgies” and they got all these nicknames because they feel separate, which is, that’s wrong,” Remmers said.  “You don’t have a house, that’s one thing, you’re not less of a person, less of a human being — it’s just heartbreaking. I know that if i miss my next check I would be on the streets too.”

Homeless Services Manager Shawn Ison says the Prado Center would be paralyzed without the help of its volunteers.

Over half of their annual budget come from donations. It’s what’s keeping them alive.

“It really is a community issue. It’s not just CAPSLO’s issue, or my issue, it’s our community,” Ison said. “And this is people from our community The majority of our clients have ties to this community, were raised here, I’m very grateful for the community support.”

Even with all of the support, Ison says, dispelling the myth of homelessness is still a challenge.

“People see people signing, aggressive panhandling downtown, and most of the time those aren’t even our clients. People in our program, we’re trying to really encourage them and be their support and cheerleaders to move forward and do address those core issues of homelessness,” Ison said. “It’s really important to keep these programs in place and I hope that we can. It’s our community, we could not do this.”

The center will open its doors again on Friday night, when nighttime temperatures are forecasted to be in the 30s; and next week, when wintry rain showers are expected once again on the Central Coast. 

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Conservative speaker and technology editor for Breitbart News, Milo Yiannopoulos, is coming to Cal Poly on January 31, a stop on his current U.S. tour of college campuses called the “Dangerous Faggot Tour.”

Cal Poly College Republicans president Katherine Rueckert says club officers invited Yiannopoulos to speak at the university. At Yiannopoulos’ events, he talks about current events in politics as well as controversial topics on college campuses.

[Clip of Yiannopoulos speaking on Islam: “One of the similarities between Islam and feminism, by the way, is that neither is satisfied until you either conform or die. This is a very classic character of authoritarian regimes.”] 

Rueckert says she thinks Yiannopoulos will bring a new perspective to campus.  

“He’s very entertaining. Personally I think he’s hilarious. Not everyone thinks he’s hilarious, obviously. But I think he’s an entertainer, he’s a performer, he has different views than maybe the majority of campus,” Rueckert said.  

Some students are worried about the visit, like Morgan G, who requested KCBX to use her last initial. She is the communication vice president of the Cal Poly Queer Student Union. Morgan says Yiannopoulos is not someone she wants influencing others on campus.

“He will generalize Muslims. He would say very insensitive things about lesbian-identified people. He would be very transphobic in his speeches and just recently in the tour that he’s bringing to this campus he had attacked a trans student,” Morgan said.  

And when Morgan says “attacks,” she’s referring to Yiannopoulos’ visit to University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, where a trans student became the topic of discussion.

[Clip of Yiannopoulos speaking at UW Milwaukee: “Do you know about Justine Kramer? Have any of you, fallen, come into contact with this person? Quote unquote non-binary trans woman forced his way into the women’s locker room this year. Who knows about this story? Any of you?”]

Morgan says that the campus Queer Student Union doesn’t want to silence Yiannopoulos but rather to educate those who don’t know who he is and what he stands for.

This isn’t the first time an invited speaker has provoked controversy on campus. In 2009, author, journalism professor and sustainable food advocate Michael Pollan was scheduled to speak alone at Cal Poly.

That was until Harris Ranch Beef Chairman, David Wood sent an email to the previous Cal Poly president, Warren Baker. In the email, Wood expressed his disapproval of Pollan while also saying he was considering withdrawing a $500,000 donation for a campus meat processing facility. Administration later changed the event to a panel discussion, including other representatives from the conventional agricultural industry. Cal Poly said they wanted to represent alternate perspectives.

The university’s director of media relations, Matt Lazier, says this is no longer the case. Because the university is under a different administration now, Lazier says, Cal Poly will not promote censorship in any form and cannot speak on behalf of the past administration.

On Wednesday, Cal Poly president Jeffrey Armstrong sent an email out to all students addressing concerns over Yiannopoulos, saying, “The real danger is not the expression of controversial voices – it is censorship and the restriction of free speech.”

Morgan says she’s unhappy with how the administration is handling Yiannopoulos’ visit, referring to administration’s response sent out prior to this week to those voicing concern. One part of the statement reads, quote: “Cal Poly’s campus is an open environment where opinions, ideas and thoughts are freely shared, even those that I and others may find distasteful and offensive.”

“It felt like a cop-out honestly. I feel the way that administration has been handling everything that’s been happening on this campus hasn’t been very proactive. They will say things that will help people calm down, or oh if we send this it will just blow over and people will forget about it, but in the end nothing changes,” Morgan said.  

The club currently has no plans to protest, but there will be a protest outside of the event held by the group San Luis Obispo Anti-Racist Action. And on Thursday, the board of directors for People of Faith for Justice issued a statement, commenting on Yiannopoulos’ impending visit.

“Since Mr. Yiannopoulos delights in inciting protests and demonstrations, People of Faith for Justice encourages San Luis Obispo activists and those who would protest at [the campus’] Spanos Theater to stay away from his presentation,” the statement reads. “Instead, to use the time to reach out to a neighbor or someone you don’t know very well, inviting them to tea or dinner or just have a friendly conversation. Let’s practice our own right to free speech in quiet protest as we build bridges, not walls.”

College Republicans president Rueckert says there will be a question and answer time during the event–a usual component of Yiannopoulos’ tour.

“That’s what we’re doing we’re providing a platform for people who don’t know him or people who do or people who maybe dislike him to come and see what he has to say and hear it for themselves and then also to question it,” Rueckert said. “They can ask questions, that’s why they have a Q and A period.”

The University of California Santa Barbara canceled his tour due to scheduling conflicts with Yiannopoulos’ staff. But in Davis, his scheduled visit was canceled due to threats of violence by protestors. And at the University of Washington, a shooting took place at a protest against the event.

This week a Yiannopoulos tour stop was canceled at UCLA. Bruin Republicans said in a statement they were “unable to accommodate the long list of requirements set forth by Milo’s team.”

The event at Cal Poly is sold out and there is a waiting list for a ticket to the free event. Yiannopoulis is set to visit UC Berkeley on February 1.

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