Saturday, June 9, 2007

Ok, not everything is food.

Back in 2004, I celebrated my 30th birthday in a yurt on the coast. It was great, despite the fact that pretty much the entire trip, it was POURING rain (it was raining so hard that we saw hundreds of frogs hopping merrily down the middle of the street.) Kevin and I spent most of our time working on crossword puzzles in the yurt. But at one point, the rain did stop, and I ventured outside, only to be greeted by this fellow:


Pretty freaky, right? At the time all I could have said for certain was that this cartoony-looking thing was some sort of fungi, but other than that it was a total mystery. A few months later I bought the book "All That The Rain Promises And More" by David Aurora. The picture of the crazy guy on the front cover is what sold me, but it turned out to be a really informative book. I learned that the mushroom I had seen near my yurt was Amanita muscaria, also know as Fly Agaric, a psychotropic mushroom. I haven't been a big fan of hallucinogens since my high school days, but I'm still happy that I can now call this red warty creature by his rightful name, if I ever come across him again.

Anyway. I'm getting around to the point of the story, I swear.

Last week Kevin and I took a couple days off work and rented a cabin at a nearby state park. It was mellow - we cooked bratwurst over the campfire, Kevin worked on crossword puzzles, and I wandered around attempting to identify birds, plants and hopefully find a mushroom or two. But it wasn't until we were in the middle of packing up the car to go home that I almost stepped on these:

I grabbed my trusty mushroom guide, and after checking the stem, gills and cap, came to the conclusion that these were Lactarius fragilis - or "Candy Caps" which the book stated were not only edible, they were choice edible. The book had a recipe for Candy Cap cookies - because once these mushrooms are dried, they smell sweet, like maple syrup. I realized right then and there that, as God was my witness, I wouldn't be able to say I had lived a full and meaningful life until I had eaten candy cap cookie, fresh from the oven. So, I picked a handful and wrapped them up for the trip home.

But when I got back, I realized that perhaps my earlier decision to try these mushrooms was perhaps a little too hasty... was I absolutely certain that these were really Lactarius fragilis? Or could they be poisonous impostors, full of toxins that would cause irreparable damage to my kidneys and liver? I decided it would be a good idea to consult yet another mushroom book, and the internet. Everything checked out. These were the real deal. I set up a makeshift dehydrator and thought about my candy cap cookies for the rest of the day.

Now every piece of information I had read stated that candy caps smell very sweet when dry. Hence the name. And once my mushrooms were dessicated, they did have an odor that seemed reminiscent of brown sugar. Proud of my harvest, I pulled Kevin into the room and told him to inhale the delicious aroma of my choice wild mushrooms. But the moment he took one sniff, he wrinkled his nose and announced "Those things smell like FEET!"

Dubious, I smelled them again. And Kevin was right - they did smell like feet. Not brown sugar, not maple syrup - just stinky, sweaty feet. How had I thought that stench was sweet? Wishful thinking? I don't really know. But of course after that, I couldn't bring myself to cook them, partly because they might not be candy caps at all, and could possibly kill me, but mostly because they were completely unappetizing now that I realized they smelled like wet socks.

As David Aurora would say "when in doubt, throw it out."

1 comment:

chetanddot said...

I don't think you should eat that.