Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mushroom (funghi) memories

I don't know of anyone who has a middle ground position on mushrooms. You either love them or you hate them. I love them.

While digging out dandelions and mushrooms from the garden, thinking I should be making a nice insalata with them, I realized I had no idea how to pick a "safe" mushroom. The backyard mushroom yield reminded me that two years ago we were in Calabria during funghi season.

On our way to Bocchigliero, we stopped for lunch at La Tavernetta, an upscale restaurant outside of Camigliatello Silano, which is a charming ski resort with small shops selling the wonderful old-world foods Nonna Filomena used to make.

La Tavernetta specializes in local foods including fungi Silani. We savoured shaved porcini in olive oil while watching gigantic mushrooms being brought into the restaurant's kitchen.

After a very expensive but fabulous lunch, we returned to the winding road and forests of the Sila. We kept seeing guys smoking cigarettes, leaning against their trucks with a scale and basket on the ground. They were waiting to buy the haul from mushroom harvesters.

We decided to make our own trek into the forest in search of prized mushrooms. It was easy pickings rummaging though leaves and around tree roots. Sadly we had no idea what was edible and what was poisonous. I wished my Uncle Nick was with us.

For me, Uncle Nick is synonymous with mushrooms. One of my fondest childhood food memory is eating his amazing marinated mushrooms. Sadly, Uncle Nick died last month. I will never know his secret and I'm sure I'll never taste mushrooms like that again.