Thursday, 29 September 2011

Further mushroom thoughts

If I had been rewriting the stupid mushroom song for our risk averse times (and yes, I know about the Horse Whisperer guy and I agree mushrooms are a GREAT PERIL, worse than cars and honey badgers and crack cocaine), I don't think I would have gone for the lame picking, then replanting angle. I think my version would have gone something like:

"I met some mushrooms
Big/small/thin/fat/yellow etc etc"

"They were in the market garden of my uncle who grows edible mushrooms for the organic co-operative
Big/small/thin/fat/yellow etc etc" .

"And you must never pick the ones in the forest if you value your kidneys
"Big/small/thin/fat/yellow etc etc"

"And, indeed, are committed to the preservation of woodland bio-diversity
Big/small/thin/fat/yellow etc etc".

"We cooked an ate them as one of our five a day according to WHO Guidelines
Big/small/thin/fat/yellow etc etc"

Why on earth I have not been offered a job writing right-on lyrics for primary school songbooks I have NO idea.

Prog Rock, unsurprisingly, is a mushroom picker. You are not astonished, are you? He would emerge from the dank mist on our rainy Lake District holidays, his hands full of fungi, and place them on the kitchen table. Then he would then get out his "Mushrooms and Toadstools of England and Wales" and pore over them for several hours, before usually declaring them "edible but boring", which I believe was one of the stock phrases the book using in taxonomising mushrooms. "Edible and delicious", "edible and good", "edible but not good", "inedible but not fatal", etc etc. I have asked him to clarify as a matter of urgency.

("Edible but boring" is a good description for everything that emerges from my kitchen, I think)


Prog Rock responds with typical elegance.

"Actual rubric was less explicit, just "edible", leaving reader to interrogate its silences. This, when read aloud, would be unequivocal".


Simon said...

Every year my in-laws go up into the mountains and spend a week picking kilo upon kilo of funghi porcini from the woods. Many kilos' worth get passed on to us. I haven't the heart to tell them I don't really like them.
Have you tried approaching Café des Spores to see if they'd pay you to sing your ditty to their customers during dinner?

Unknown said...

We pick lots of mushrooms in the New Forest and seem to be the only people doing it - hurray, more for us. Why pay £20 for a few ceps, when I can find them for free? You just have to learn to recognise them and never eat one that you are not 100% sure is edible. In fact, the vast majority of mushrooms are harmless, and you have to be, hmmm, how do I put it?, a complete novice? to get such a severe poisoning as that writer did.

Patience_Crabstick said...

There are some livid yellow mushrooms growing at the base of an oak tree in the park across the street from my house, but I am sure that eating them would result in an agonizing death. You mushroom pickers are braver than I.

Laurel said...

I would really like to be a brave outdoorsy woods-wise mushroom picker, but really I'm a city bred weenie and the one time I picked a morel (the most easily identified mushroom) and ate it, it was an experience full of cowardice and trepidation from beginning to end: I picked it from a place I wasn't supposed to pick it, I let someone else get in trouble for picking it, then I worried about having identified it incorrectly and dying miserably after eating it. It was rubbery and full of slugs, so that was another reason I didn't enjoy eating it.

Thank you for letting me unpack my mushroom-picking-related dark past here. As you can see, mushroom-picking is often a sordid pastime.

Fat Controller said...

The story is told of a German family who supplemented their meagre food rations during WW2 by gathering wild mushrooms. These they tested for safety by giving some to the cat first. One evening, they were just tucking in to a hearty portion when the cat appeared to go into convulsions...

Some hours and a stomach-pumping later they got back home to find the cat still very much alive and the proud mother to a litter of kittens.

Anonymous said...

Is this a family blog? If it isn't I'd suggest we rename the song in question "The prick song":

White ones yellow ones small ones fat ones thin ones long ones short ones


Anonymous said...

My husband is always trying to pick mushrooms but I get palpitations when I think what happened to that Horse Whisperer man and his whole family.
I think it is forager John Wright of River Cottage fame, who uses the phrase 'makes tolerable eating' at times.

Xtreme English said...

i have a friend whose family had to flee the nazis during WWII, and they survived by foraging in the woods as they went along. she's still at it...can't keep her hands off a mushroom (unless it's poisonous). i am in awe of that kind of knowledge. plus the mushrooms in the way she cooks them are fabulous!!

Rebecca said...

I had a bad mushroom experience. Went picking with some Ukrainian families in the woods by a small Ukrainian town. This was a very enjoyable activity by the standards of entertainment in the area at the time. The conversation was mostly around how, post-Chernobyl, you couldn't tell whether previously safe mushrooms had mutated into scary poisonous ones. This wasn't recognised as a possible reason for giving up mushroom picking.

We ate them for dinner, and they were very good eating. I then spent the whole night on the toilet, which would have been bad enough in itself, but with the additional certainty that I'd be dead before morning, it was really torturous.

Turned out that I wasn't dead in the morning, though didn't feel too good (everybody else was ticketyboo, of course, and annoyingly). Luckily it was the day of the 5 hour bus journey home! So, pretty bad, but endurable, until the bus got a flat and we had to wait 3 hours on the hard shoulder before the next bus came, already full of people, so standing room only and not much of that.

That was quite terrible, but then my friend's 5 year old son got travel sick and puked all over my trousers, with only about 3 hours journey to go until we got home.

I'm nearly over it, 18 years on. I am almost certainly never going mushroom picking again, though might be tempted by truffle hunting.

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