Saturday, 24 November 2012

Champignon. Champing-yes!

Autumn is textbook this year - all misty mornings, sun drenched afternoons after a light rain at night, just a touch of frost. Les champingnons have been poking their mysterious little hats up everywhere, even in our usually bone-dry garden.
The usual seasonal question arose as regular as the other question, which will never be addressed properly: 'shall we buy a chain saw'. We look at them in Bricolage, and then at Mark's money-earning musician hands and go off to look at wild bird food or paint.
Oh yes, the seasonal question - from our son: "Can we go and collect mushrooms and cook them?"
I agree and hope he will then forget the idea. Not that I don't want to wander in mossy glens, appreciating nature in all its yellow and orange splendour. I just have a fear of being shot, (by an over-enthusiastic hunter) this does unfortunately happen each year to the odd mushroom gathering person . . . that and the possibility of eating something that might finish you off.
I've only actually eaten mushrooms once that I picked - small, brown weedy-looking things that me and some student friends happened upon, (actually, was a major search party), resulting in a jolly little event where our hideous, freezing student dive became a wonderment of glittering coloured lights, warmth, love and celestial twaddle.
Back to the present . . . Ezra and I went up to a local forest and walked around for quite a long time getting very wet feet. We found the usual bizarre collection of things you definitely would not put anywhere near a cooker: odd gangly white mushrooms with deadly-looking hats, big flat white specimens, harmless looking as a slice of 'Mother's Pride', but with an eeriness about them: 'eat me, go on. I'm just like a Champignon de Paris, but so much bigger.' Why hadn't even the Sanglier (wild boar) touched any of these?
We stopped in the tiny hamlet of 'Lapayre' hoping Monsieur Oui-Oui-Oui might be around. He appeared holding a massive armload of ivy stems which he was about to feed to the sheep - rather like a cleanse apparently. We showed him our basket of weird mushrooms and he tutted: 'non, non, non' and waved an arm in the direction of some pine trees. 'La, vous pouvez trouvez les 'Grisettes': Ils sont bien, tout a fait mangeable, oui oui oui.' We followed his advice, collected quite a lot of grey moleskin-coloured mushrooms and then went back to the big smoke.
Being still a little apprehensive we showed them to a pharmacy woman. She got her book out and agreed they were what they had been deemed to be, and that we would indeed, not die.
So I cooked them with a bit of garlic and olive oil, said goodbye to the dogs and we ate them (not the dogs).
Not so much as a fart or rumbly tum. Mr Oui-Oui-Oui, I should never have doubted you.

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