Posted by: travelrat | December 30, 2009

Mushrooms, etc.

When you consider that the English language has more words that any other, it’s rather surprising that it only has two words that people usually use to describe fungi; mushrooms, which you can eat, and toadstools, which you can’t. Actually, it’s not quite true; only one or two toadstools are actually fatal, and the most lethal is actually called a ‘death cap mushroom’ Many toadstools, in fact, to quote Crocodile Dundee … ‘ … you can eat them, but they taste like s***!’

One variety of edible mushroom I did find was one they called the ‘Blue Vein’, which was reported to grow in only one place in England … on our airfield. Alas, it is an airfield no more, and is now one of Her Majesty’s Prisons. So, the airfield and the Blue Veins are well out of bounds to us law-abiding citizens.

Airfields are, actually, good places on which to find mushrooms, for pesticides and fertilisers are never used on them. But, you have to get up very early, before the Fire Section and the Air Traffic Control staff have taken the best of them.

Now, if you cross over to France, they have many kinds of edible … indeed, delicious … fungi. Chanterelles, morelles, cepes, … they’re all here, and, if you’re in any doubt, the local pharmacist will identify them for you. Although (I think it was?) George East told me that his local pharmacist had to consult the same book that George used.

Received wisdom is that, the smaller the mushroom, the tastier it is. I usually buy button mushrooms, and will have nothing to do with the ones the size of a CD. But then, at the French House Party, we were introduced to the cepe. Monstrous great thing, and ugly, too. If I saw it growing in the woods, I’d probably pass it by without a second glance.

But then, Chef Robert began to slice it … and, I could detect the woody, mushroomy aroma from ten feet away. And, that was before it was gently fried in butter!


  1. I am a huge fan of mushrooms. You really can’t beat button mushrooms fried in butter. Such joy!

    Lately, I have been branching out and getting into porcini and shitake mushies. A bit of an acquired taste but well worth it!

  2. Oh, and I meant to say HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!

  3. Those cep/porcini are beautiful! I had them fresh for the first time in Florence a couple of years ago and was blown away. I have never been able to afford them when I have seen them in England though!

    Happy New Year!

    • I’m assuming cepes and porcini are the same thing in different languages?

      One of the dishes we were served on the cruise was risotto ai funghi porcini … I suppose it’s not the done thing to ask for second helpings, with the main course still to come?

      About the butter … I actually prefer to fry mushrooms in olive oil, sometimes with a touch of garlic paste. However, to the horror of the ‘Healthy Eating Police’, Robert prefers butter and, like most French cooks, believes margarine is the invention of the Devil … even though it was invented by a Frenchman!

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