Monday, May 15, 2006

The Mushroom Hunt

For mother’s day, we’re in search of morels—clusters of brainy stems ripe for snatching and stowing in a rolled Ziploc.

We span the woods, the marsh, the ravine.

Two tugging diversions are no pedigreed truffle-sniffers. They’re yip-yappers; their white muzzles and paws quickly growing a dingy gray in the muddied leaves.

In a clearing, as the skies part, we come upon a morbid sight. A graveyard of all kinds. Uprooted trunks thrown clear across the stream create a network of makeshift bridges, snapped branched scattered and strewn haphazardly by the storm. A group of bones; half a pair of antlers from a ten-point buck and three femurs. Further, a fox scull missing its jaw.

Saddened some by what we didn’t find and what we did, we retreat with the dogs, the empty baggie, under the cover of trees, cracking seed pods and bark with our shoes.

We try again, the city this time, venturing into a dark shop fragrant with deep tones of dirt, chalk, expensive fungi.

Shelves of stained glass bottles, artisan olive oils, tubs of rich Nutella, vacuum-sealed packets of dried organic beans.

Tins of mud masks, whipped and flavored liquefied honey. Chestnut, cherry blossom, and truffle (perfect they say, with a tart and firm sheep’s-milk cheese).

Himalayan salt slabs; great pink and orange squares edged with crystals.

In the refrigerated alcove, a treasure trove. Flats upon flats of mushrooms, cool and silken, some glistening still from their pick.

Porcini, blue foot, shitake, trays of sea beans boasting a sharp, briny bite. Above, slim boxes of morels: gray, alien, and perfect. We nearly indulge, but find our resolve last-minute. We know they exist in the woods beyond the pool and pond, and we will find them someday.

I choose blood-orange marmalade and when I tip the bottle the orange film slides, coating the glass. Black and chamomile tea in finely woven drawstring bags. A dark and slightly bitter chocolate bar.

They pack the purchases in tissue-weight paper bags. Instead of giving morels, I’ll take mom to lunch at Chanterelle and watch her unwrap the smaller, less precious gifts. And I won’t tell her what I tried to find for her but couldn’t, because that could very well ruin next year’s surprise.


mamak said...

It sounds like your gifts are great ones, I am sure that your mom will (does) love them! The marmalade sounds terrific, especially with tea.
A very vivid post, I can almost see tree trunks, the stream and the bones .. sounds like quite the experience!

Grant said...

A very interesting if gruesome find. I am curious where you managed to find forests around NYC. I'm sure you weren't anywhere near here.

I wonder what Himalayan salt slabs taste like. Especially in light of the colors you described it to be. Now I must venture into NYC and find some. Lol.

K said...

Mamakraft--thanks for the comment--I'm actually celebrating a belated mother's day for my mom this Friday.

Grant--you are 100% right--these were the woods of Pennsylvania. The salt is in Alphabet City if you are ever looking for it :)

AmourArmor said...

In reference to your comment,

it has been my experience that professors are full of bluff. So, I don't expect anything to go anywhere. They flirt and they talk to the talk, but most of them don't want to give up their careers at the University for a cheap thrill and an ego boost. They're kind of moral like that.


K said...

Jae--oh man, that's too bad...

PI said...

Yum! Yum!
Lucky Mum!

Maybe the shop is safer.

Mimi in NY said...

Oh, you must live by me, I walk past it every day too... never been in the bar though my friend used to go in her youth and assures me it's as scummy as it appears.