Wild collected mushrooms. The taste of the forest. The taste of the earth. And, of course, quick and ugly killers.
The entire region is a buzz with mushroom hunting fever.
Over the last two weeks I have met with a group of women to work on the town Christmas decorations and every day the conversation starts with “Did you find any mushrooms today?” and in chorus the answer has been “no”. But now I know better. During the mornings they have all been out finding mushrooms. Each family has a secret forest spot where the mushrooms have been waiting for a little rain to peek their tender bodies out of the rich soil. No one wants to share or let on that they have been filling baskets and baskets of gorgeous fall mushrooms. Each woman is testing the other to see who will confess first. So far no one has cracked.
There seems to be a community-wide belief that Tom and I would never survive a foray into the forest. And that we are the perfect dopes to select only the deadliest of neo-fungi. Our French friends have taken it on themselves to be sure that we have tasted these local delicacies in every fashion possible. I’ve been called aside to be discreetly given a container of stuffed cepes and another time a skillet’s worth of cleaned, sliced and gently sauteed mixed wild mushrooms.
The next day the husband of this friend teased that maybe we had had stomach aches or funny side effects. Not at all, they were delicious and much appreciated as we would certainly be found dead hours later if we tried this on our own.
One ‘hunter’ told a tale of woe. She had set off to a ‘special’ hunting ground. Well, by the time she arrived (at dawn!) there were already 4 cars parked in the woodland path. Soon she declared she felt as if she was on the Champs Elysees in the middle of Paris. The forest was crawling with people bent over knocking over mushrooms to see what kind they were. Apparently mushrooms hunters establish their claim on their moving zone by making funny noises to warn away others. This was exactly why not not even good friends were letting on what they had been up to in the mornings. Loose lips can’t savor the gifts of the forest.