It always starts with the lead ‘shroomer talking a big game. He makes grand promises of the mountains of chanterelles or bolletes that await. Next thing you know, you’re fighting over a small piece of pluteus or chicken of the woods– the edible dregs of the mushroom world. The head ‘shroomer will scoff at any fungus you find, but when HE finds the same species, you’d better plop down in the grass and listen to him expound upon it’s wonders.
In this chanterelle and morel-less state, you might find yourself getting excited over a polypore (you know, that boring shelf stuff growing on trees). One woman might quietly add, “Wood ear is supposed to be good for cholesterol.” And the mushroom man will proclaim, “Yes, wood ears ARE technically edible but no one in their right mind would want to eat them!” If she’s brave, she might offer a fascinating retort, “The Chinese use them in sweet and sour soup.” But the mushroom man will disregard such input– he’s the expert.
Or you could find yourself sitting around a camp fire with a kooky Russian drinking home-distilled spirits. She’ll tell you innuendo-laden stories about tripping on magic mushrooms (ugh, I don’t want to think about that). Now all the ‘shroomers are really letting their spores loose– one man is playing the flute to get the mushrooms to come out (“come out, little mushrooms!” he sings), or trying to flirt with you by taking a picture of your eyeball. Later that night, while sharing a saggy old grandma bed with your friend, you’ll wonder– why the hell am I here? And why do I feel slighted because they didn’t recognize me as the only one who found an amanita? Why do I even care? You didn’t even know what an amanita was until 4 hours ago.
There were two things I loved as a kid: wondering through the woods and Easter egg hunts. I loved veering off the path, climbing rocks, carving my way through brambles, looking inside dead trees. The stars haven’t quite aligned for me yet, so I take the ‘shroomers cast-offs. Mycologists are too cool to eat stuff like pluteus, honey mushrooms, and even puff balls.
You might not like how the head ‘shroomer conducts hunts, but you must endure it because the stakes are high. You’re at his mercy during a mushroom hunt— your life is in his hands. I can’t blow him off like I might do in other areas of my life. So I keep returning whenever the he says the weather is ripe for hunting. Someday I’ll find my golden egg.