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Weekly scoops: fearsome fungi, Mr. Cal, cafeteria tycoon

March 13, 2009 |  7:41 pm

Everyday_2In case you missed them, here's an end-of-the-week look at just a few of our memorable reads:

The stay-at-home mother did not like to admit it, but she could use the money. Angel Howard stretched every dollar of her husband Brian's $56,000 yearly income, wearing old clothes, clipping coupons, shopping for sales at Wal-Mart and occasionally tapping the food pantry at the Armed Services YMCA. She had worked part time at a clothing store in the local mall, but quit when her husband was sent back to the Middle East. -- Molly Hennessy-Fiske on military wives serving as surrogates

There's no time to wash away the smell of sour milk from the baby's skin, so the mother wipes the dozing infant's face with the filthy bib hanging from his neck. "WIC cares about me," it reads, a reference to the free food program for poor women and children. Social worker Ladore Winzer has just told the mother she will detain the 11-month-old boy and process him this night into foster care. It's after dusk and the slim, efficient social worker, late returning home to her own family, is stuck for now in the middle of this ghetto vista. Cars swerve around a lampshade; a graffiti tribute to a dead man runs across a cinder-block wall; a hunched homeless man pushes his cart across the grass-tufted sidewalk. -- Garrett Therolf on how a computer program calls the shots for L.A. County children in peril

On campus, he is called Mr. Cal, or simply Cal. His rapport with students, like his energy, comes easily. Think drill sergeant and trusted advisor. He sees himself as a math coach. Boredom is an enemy. He -- and his students -- are always on the move. -- Carla Rivera on Sam Calavitta, whose Anaheim students think he may be the best math teacher ever

Over the years, the gray-haired man in the short-sleeved plaid shirt became a legend at the 2,200-student university, where -- over a plate of Swedish meatballs and a large bowl of soft-serve ice cream -- he would hold court in the crowded dining hall. Bruce Lindsay befriended students and dispensed Depression-era advice to anyone who would listen: Respect your parents, never drink or smoke, be frugal, save money. -- My-Thuan Tran on an Orange County millionaire who chose to eat three square meals a day at a tiny university in Costa Mesa

Joan Crippa came home on Feb. 26, the day her husband gathered the mushrooms, to find him sautéing them with butter in a pan. "He really ate a lot of them," she said. "He said they were the best mushrooms he had ever eaten." Crippa said her husband of 26 years didn't offer her any. "I only eat mushrooms from Trader Joe's or Vons, so he knew better than to ask me," she said. Her husband started to get sick the next morning, Crippa said. -- Catherine Saillant on a passionate forager for wild fungi, who died eating the wrong ones

-- Nita Lelyveld

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