Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Dung Domes Here I Come!

Back in September 2004, when this blog was but a one-month-old stripling, I wrote a post lamenting the apparent absence of a local mycological society, which could help me finally realize my long-deferred dream of foraging for wild mushrooms that I could eat—with confidence. Well, I must not have been very rigorous in my search for such a society, because the Oregon Mycological Society has been here all along—since 1949, in fact. Do click on the link and then keep your eye on the basket for a few seconds. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Well, you can bet your boots that the moment I found the OMS site, I immediately placed a phone call to Hermann (two “n’s” in Hermann and a Germanic-sounding surname—very promising) to find out about becoming a member. I attended my first meeting last night and flung myself into a subculture where you can buy a T-shirt that is part of a campaign to get the U.S. Postal Service to issue mushroom stamps; where drawing a mushroom out of a brown paper bag will bring an instant audience of people, who will make excited exclamations like: "It’s the Prince!" "That looks like the Prince!" "Eat only half a cap first." "Some people are allergic to the Prince.”; and where you can peruse the society newsletter, Mushrumors,* which features articles like “From Forest to Fork” and “Solstice Craterellus Hunt: All’s Well That Ends Well.”

These are my people!

While waiting for the meeting to start, I browsed some of the books on offer and was naturally drawn to All That the Rain Promises and More... by the legendary David Arora. (Again, I’m going to insist that you click on the link. You’ll be missing out if you don’t.) I don’t know how anyone could pass up a book with a cover like this.** I certainly couldn’t. I first saw this book in the hands of the one and only mushroom hunter I have ever encountered while hiking in Oregon. It took all my breeding not to snatch it out of his hands and dash off with it. I just knew it had to be the ultimate mushroom field guide for the Pacific Northwest (but one I’d never seen in bookstores). And it is. And I now have my very own copy. And I got it at a discount since I am now a card-carrying member of the OMS. Whooo hoo hoo hoo hoo!!!!

I spent a bit of time paging through the book before the main event—a lecture on boletes—started. I already own several mushroom field guides and I never tire of looking through them, but this book somehow manages to balance excellent, accurate identification information with generous lashings of whimsy. My kind of field guide! For example, there is a recipe for “mushroom toast” (Cut a mushroom cap into a square; stick it in your toaster; don’t be alarmed when it starts “steaming like it’s on fire,” and enjoy. A rather thought-provoking footnote states that mushrooms conduct electricity, but fails to give further details!) There’s also a sidebar on a hackysack-like game you can play with a puffball—reputedly invented centuries ago by Native Americans—and a photo of the author clothed in a birch bark jacket and kilt and a mushroom beret, with, of course, mushrooms in each hand—you can’t get much more whimsical than that. I wish I could reproduce the photo here. You need to see the gleeful/maniacal gleam in his eye.

So that’s a glimpse of the whimsy. Actually, the whimsy carries over into the more strictly informative aspects of the book, e.g., the common names of the mushrooms. I find these names endlessly fascinating. And this book lists quite a few I never ran across in my east of the Rockies-focused guides. To wit:

Dung Dome (Edibility: Not recommended—what a relief!)
Dung Bell (All right already! Another that grows on dung and is not a recommended edible)
Ma’am on a Motorcycle
Dead Man’s Foot
Fat Jack
Slim Jack
Satan’s Bolete
Hideous Gomphidious (Edible if you’re motivated enough to peel off the slimy skin first)
Poison Pie (Edibility: Take a wild guess.)
Cowboy’s Handkerchief

I enjoyed the lecture on boletes as well. Despite the fact that I am an amateur armchair mycologist (very amateur), I was able to follow along and found it quite informative and interesting. What I’m most looking forward to, however, are the forays that as a member of the OMS I am now entitled to go on. I’ll finally be able to hunt with experts and gather some wild-as-hell mushrooms and, of course, eat them. I can’t wait!

*The title of the newsletter alone is worth the annual dues!

**I can’t give you any background about the kooky cover photo and the significance of the trombone or the tux or even the name of the fungi he’s holding. I find no reference to it or accreditation (as is usual) on the copyright page or anywhere else in the book.


Post a Comment

<< Home