Sunday, October 10, 2010

Yesterday afternoon, Tom and I went for a walk in our woods and came back with a dish full of honey mushrooms. Thanks to my friends Steve and Angela, I have just learned how to identify these mushrooms, and now I have also learned that my woods are full of them. Last night I baked them with olive oil and vermouth, boiled down the juices to a syrup, and served them on mixed greens with sherry vinegar. This morning Tom used a few in omelets, and I've also got a batch drying on the racks above the wood stove.

One of my favorite things about Tolstoy novels is his affection for mushroom-hunting scenes. I have always wanted to tie up my hair in a bright kerchief and drive a donkey cart into the forest for a mushroom expedition. Alas, I still have no donkey, and I'm not even sure I possess a kerchief, but finally I do have the mushrooms.

By the way, I am now up to chapter 38 in Great Expectations and chapter 26 in Moby-Dick. Where are you?


Maureen said...

Your description of honey mushrooms, which I've never had, makes me interested enough to look them up and wish I had a plateful before me.

There was a recent New Yorker article about the composer John Cage, who was a mushroom expert. He even won the equivalent of approximately $23,000 on an '50s Italian quiz show, answering esoteric questions about mushrooms. The money was sufficient to buy a van in which to ferry Cunningham dancers to their performances.

Scott said...

I've heard that Russians are mad for mushrooms.

My brother-in-law knows a bit about mushrooms, he once saw a rotting stump on the edge of a McDonald's parking lot. It was covered in edible 'shrums, so he picked them. He said it was the best meal he'd ever taken away from a fast food place.

I'm up to chapter 40 in Moby-Dick. It's odd how, after Ahab's speech whipping the crew into a fury, we leave Ishmael and enter the thoughts of the officers and captain.

Dawn Potter said...

You're on a "Moby-Dick" roll, Scott! I'm still back on the "uses of whale oil" chapter.

Maureen, I love imagining John Cage on a Italian game show. When I was in Rome in 2004, my favorite TV program was "Music Farm"--the title really was in English--which was a crazy incomprehensible "America Idol"-ish fake-celebrity show. Gold high heels run rampant. I like to imagine John Cage talking about mushrooms on the same program as a Sophia Loren wannabe.

Thomas said...

Alas, you all recede over the horizon while I'm stuck back in ch 24 of MD and a measly ch 20 of GE. I'll keep sailing on and try to catch up.

One spot which kept me foundering for a bit was that mysterious ch 23, "The Lee Shore." Ishmael's evocation of the individual (mind) needing to heave away from the dangerous shoals of comfort and assistance and bear straight toward the sea, while in keeping with his stance in ch 1, was rather hard for me to take. My alienated younger self would have clenched a fist in hearty assent, but now as a middle aged parent of two children, I find it harder to accept this as a rousing portrait of individualism in the face of adversity. Don't we want the comforts of our loved ones? Here I'm not willing to follow the nautical analogy of the tempest blast to our mental strife.

Reminds me of the old Gang of Four lyric, "We live as we dream, alone." I'm not sure I want to believe that anymore, either.


P.S. As someone who has always inclined more toward Dostoeyevsky, I'm drawn now to your Tolstoyan enthusiasms on the basis of the mushrooms alone. Once Moby Dick's done, to Tolstoy will I go!

Dawn Potter said...

There is a glorious mushrooming scene in "Anna Karenina." Some of the best parts of "AK" are those farm and forest passages.

It is hard to keep believing in "Gang of Four" lyrics, though they do continue to be strangely compelling. Melville seems to be definitely in the individualism camp, whereas Dickens is firmly entrenched in the community camp. Though D's characters are often lonely, that isolation is a sadness, not a strength. M's lonely characters seem to be destined for tragic ends, but their loneliness is not their tragedy.