for wild mushrooms
WITH GARLIC AND SAGE
Cut chanterelles into half inch pieces and sauté in olive oil until they release their water and it has evaporated, about ten minutes.
Add garlic and sage, both finely chopped, and cook 1-2 minutes.
Add butter and cook until melted. Salt and pepper to taste.
I don’t cook much, but I’ve been trying to do it more lately. I’ve been a parent for nearly eighteen years and during that time Colin has made almost every meal. He’s a good cook, and he likes to do it. I’m a bad cook, and I don’t. Sometimes division of household labor shakes out along practical lines. But cooking for a family of four and whoever else I invite to dinner is a big job and I want to help more.
As a kid, I didn’t like mushrooms. I generally encountered them as raw sliced button mushrooms on green salads. I thought they tasted like pure dirt and they made salad even worse than it already was.
I didn’t really revise my opinion of mushrooms until I took up foraging a few years ago. Maybe “took up foraging” isn’t quite right. I go out every fall with the same two people: Martie and Steve, sweet, generous, obsessive foragers who literally travel the world in search of wild mushrooms. I can only reliably identify one choice woodland mushroom - the chanterelle - and I have to admit that I’ve never found one on my own.* Martie and Steve’s favorite foraging spots are secret and involve labyrinthine networks of logging roads that would prevent me from finding my way back to them even if I tried, which I promised I would never do.
So I am not a cook, and I am not really a forager, but I am absolutely a forest person. An autumn day spent bushwhacking through dense Oregon woods with my eyes trained on the ground is the best.
We went last Thursday: Martie, Steve, and a few other people. It was my least successful year, but I still managed to bring home enough chanterelles for Colin to make sausage and mushroom pizza, to eat some sautéed on toast, and to gift a small bag of them to my mother-in-law.
Our modest haul. Mine are on the bottom with the red bandana. Martie found half of them and slipped them into my basket because she already had her fill of mushrooms at home. We found a few boletes and cauliflower mushrooms too.
Vera in the woods. It was a perfect day.
Except for the wasp who crept into my boot and stung me on the ankle.
After the first foraging trip in 2020, I brought home a little bag of mushrooms and sautéed them, using the recipe above, with sage and garlic from my garden. It was delicious and now I finally like mushrooms.
I don’t usually photograph my lunch, but I did today because it was special. That baguette was fresh-out-of-the-oven and still warm when I bought it at the store this afternoon. The figs were so good that I ate a little carton of them, by myself, in a sitting. The pumpkin seeds came from my pumpkin patch; Colin roasted them after we carved jack-o-lanterns on Sunday with our neighbors. The sage came from my garden. The mushrooms came from a forest deep in the coast range.
The soup is the best part: my friend Gina came over and cooked it at my house because she wanted to show me how to use my instant pot. Colin was in the studio until dinnertime every day for a month, and she was helping me learn to cook for my family.
I take food for granted. I grow beautiful produce and don’t bother to harvest it. I buy food without considering where it comes from. I’m not actively grateful for the relative miracle of being well-fed. But today I had a thoughtful meal and was thankful for it.
The spell of this special lunch was broken when Les Schwab called. I got new tires this morning, and someone named Justin called to let me know that one of them was the wrong tire. It didn’t match the other three. It was just a random, errant tire and could I come back to Les Schwab right away? So I polished off those figs and hit the road.
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* I wrote this newsletter yesterday. Today - Thursday - I drove out to the Oregon coast by myself and found a single small chanterelle on my own. A first! So maybe I am a forager after all.