A Gourmand in France: Mushroom Hunting

I’ve always wanted to go mushroom hunting. It’s popular in Portland, where I studied in the US, but it’s an activity that can’t be done alone. You need to know where to go. This is rather difficult because everyone has their secret spots, which they are not keen on sharing as they are secret. So, after you succeed in this difficult task, you need to to be able to identify them, unless you are comfortable with dying. My most successful trip in the US ended with a booty of three chanterelles. And a beautiful hike.

After five years of wanting to be an amateur mycologist, I decided to be a little more proactive. Luckily, mushroom hunting is a beloved activity in my new home of Grenoble. Many of my french friends recounted stories of mushroom hunting with their grandparents when they were young. Since I was not lucky enough to have french grandparents who were amateur mushroom hunters, I first set out to find them by joining la Société de Mycologie Dauphinois. The other day, we went on an outing. I was the youngest by about 40 years.

We promptly left at 8:30am from the parking lot of the supermarket and carpooled to an undisclosed location in the Vercors. After two hours hunched over, scanning the dirt for trumpets of death, cèpes, and chanterelles, the mushrooms that I could identify, I had a small collection of that I was very proud of.

Little did I know, the fun does not end with the mushroom hunting. At 12:00 we reconvened. Tables and chairs were filed out and a with cloth with little flowers was draped over the long, mis-matched table. Aperitifs were promptly brought out, homemade alcohols with various herbs and plants that were collected in the mountains. Swiftly after, the wine is opened. I want to try all of them, of course, so I quickly drain your cup, and demand for smaller portions. Bread and charcuterie and quiche and salads are passed around. I have eaten and drunk more than enough, but I can’t miss the cheese course, which comes next and demandes a new cup of wine. Then the desserts are passed around – biscotti, and chestnut cake and warmed spiced applesauce and somewhere in between there are digestifs. With a full belly and a fuzzy head, I promptly fall asleep on the car ride back, and groggily bike home with my mushroom loot in my backpack.

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