Nowadays, I don’t go mushrooming myself (dad picked a dodgy one once and I witnessed his purple face, shortness of breath and urgent rush to hospital – he was fine after an hour or so but it was pretty frightening for a while there!).
I prefer to buy a punnet from my local farm shop but as I clean them up, chop them and fry them in butter, I smile to myself as I remember our autumnal field forays and maybe I even whistle a little, just like dad.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness*
(oh, and the field mushroom!)
My dad was a keen and quite ruthless mycophile. As a small child, I would sometimes accompany him on his thrilling, early morning, field mushroom raids and there was an undeniable whiff of prohibition about them. I felt like I had stepped into Dahl’s “Danny, Champion of the World” and it was me and dad against the landed gentry!
We would set the alarm early and dress in wellies and old clothes and, with the early morning mist still hanging in the valley, we’d stride out (well, he’d stride, and I’d skip to keep up) across the dewy grass in search of those glorious white globes, clutching a little basket and keeping my voice to a whisper.
There were a couple of other ardent foragers in the village and dad was always thrilled if we could make it to the fields before any sighting of Mr H in his grey cloth cap or Mr S in his tweed jacket and I would feel jubilant on his behalf (and mine as I’d have dad all to myself).
Bending low over my wellies, I would admire the mysterious, smooth protrusions which made him so excited. He taught me what to look for and how to pluck the mushroom from the bottom of its robust stalk, flip it over and inspect the beautiful, fleshy pink underside, sniff it to ensure it had a fresh, earthy perfume and then pop it in my basket. I didn’t seem to worry that most of them were growing out of cowpats, a few days old with a hefty crust on the top covering the wildlife below!
*from Ode to Autumn by John Keats