“Some of my friends are going mushroom hunting this weekend, want to come?” The Swede innocently asked me probably too many years ago than I am willing to admit.
“I don't want to die.” Or something equally dramatic was probaby my answer.
I spent my childhood going on the occasional woodland romp or park excursion, but mostly I did New Jersey Girl Scouts, which means arts and crafts, baking and the occasional tenting in our fearful leader's backyard. (I hated it and quit early once I realized I would never sell enough cookies to win that goddamn rainbow hangy thing).
One rule was universal. Every Mom in the neighborhood and every scout leader repeated it. Do NOT eat ANYTHING you find growing outside. This PARTICULARLY means mushrooms. Mushrooms will KILL you. But berries, too. While they might not always KILL you they will make you very very very sick.
Cut to Sweden. I was out orienteering with my 7 year old niece. (She was guiding me through the woods). She bends down and goes 'Here have a blueberry!' and my first instinct is 'NOOOOO'. But I am learning, really. I tried it. And ate quite a few. They were good. I hope I won't be the first case of Heartworm in Sweden.
But back to the mushrooms.
First The Swede tells me, don't worry, we will only be picking chanterelles, they are easy to spot. Promise. And they are because they are very distinctive looking. But then he also notices these other mushrooms. The ones they call 'fake chanterelles,' or Trattchanterelles. I am worried about the name. Really? Fakes? That sounds poisonous. I think I will stick with the real deal.
We wandered the woods for awhile. Staring at the ground. Finding the occasional small gathering. And then, something magical happened. Once you see the mushrooms? You really see the mushrooms. They are everywhere. And OF COURSE you can see which is which. It's as obvious as telling the difference between two people sitting on a bus. They are both people, but they are not the same.
And so when we got all of our mushrooms home, I ate them, fake ones and all. I ate them despite the fact that I really don't like mushrooms (mostly because I feel they have the consistency of chewing on your own tongue).
Now we go out regularly to pick mushrooms. Now we have trained our dog to hunt chanterelles. Now I can tell a blueberry from a fake blueberry. I can spot a raspberry and vinberries. I know. To your average Swede that's a 'So what.' But for a Jersey girl? It feels like a big step!