Monday, September 28, 2009

Mushrooming & Chez Sven in Sunday Globe

On a crisp Wednesday afternoon, a few weeks ago, I set out on a mushroom-hunting expedition with Patricia Borns, a freelance journalist from Florida, on assignment for the Boston Globe. Her successful pitch to editors had been Wellfleet’s Russian connections and mushrooms. Before heading to Bound Brook, a great spot for mushrooms with its pine forests, according to Guitta Plau, who taught a fall course at the Wildlife Sanctuary last year, I put Patricia in touch with a Russian friend in Orleans, whom we both talked to over the phone. From their conversation, I discover Irina had “learned mushrooms” as a child.

“You don’t tell your secret place,” she explained. “Everyone has a secret place.”

Hmmm. Sounds sort of like blueberries.

“How did you eat them?” Patricia asks once I have made the introductions.

Mushroom omelets come to mind as I recall an extraordinary meal in France, concocted by a Swiss neighbor who had served several different dishes to emphasize the range of taste wild mushrooms offer. When Patricia gets off the phone, I tell her the French take wild mushrooms to the pharmacist to be sure none are poisonous. She has already been out mushroom hunting the previous day, and even had time to show her finds to Guitta.

“The inconspicuous one was the only edible mushroom,” the journalist laughs. “We had filled two bags!”

On Bound Brook, we take the path beside the Atwood Higgins House, which meanders through pines. Our eyes are peeled for mushrooms, tough to see on the lichen-covered ground. Patricia pounces but the mushroom is one she recognizes from the day before, inedible. Shortly afterward, she finds another and stuffs it into her paper bag. We walk on, imagining Russian ladies with a basket on either arm, full of rosy-colored specimens. Lesson number one: get to mushroom site early. Since there was rain over the weekend, we conclude the area has already been milked – or rather, mushroomed out.

At a fork in the path, we turn right. A bit further on, we reach a large rock. The choice is left, or right. We turn right again. Still no mushrooms in sight. Wait! I find one. Patricia dusts it off and peers underneath. The gills, apparently, are wrong but my mushroom, tall and angular, goes into her bag as well. I’m already hoping Patricia has a good sense of orientation, because we will need it to get home. Lesson number two: be careful not to get lost. My companion tells me people do get lost all the time in the National Seashore, hunting for mushrooms. Fortunately, we come to a dirt road. No need to walk back through the forest.

Our hunt yielded two mushrooms, but also the chance to get to know each other. And, what a great job Patricia did with her article! Check it out here.