April 27, 2013

Heavenly Mushrooms ?

Unlike intelligence, passion for mushrooms is not evenly distributed on Earth. It is rather scattered here and there such as the dark spots on the hide of a Holstein cow: the regions with a strong mushroom picking tradition stand alongside those for whom it is a phobia. Within the first group, much sought species found in a certain spot can be despised or feared just a few kilometers away and without any knowledge in written history of why this odd fact exists. 

In North America, passion for wild mushrooms is rather recent. However, it is rapidly gaining ground due to the enthusiasm for outdoors and gastronomy. 

Contrariwise, in numerous regions of Europe, age-old habits perpetuate tradition. Almost everywhere in Eastern Europe, picking is a ritual accomplished by the whole family and carried on even when migrating. Wild mushrooms are almost worshipped; memories of these gatherings in the forest are inextricably linked to the joys of youthful years. 

As a matter of fact, I know very few people as passionate for picking as the Czech and the Slovaks. As with many other Montreal immigrants, one of them related with emotion his souvenirs of rambles in the forest with his father. He talked of memorable mushroom harvests. It brought tears to his eyes; his father had died a few months ago. Upon returning to Prague for the funeral service, after the incineration he had gathered the ashes and dispersed them in that secret place where during their youth a fabulous complicity had united them.I was touched by this filial attention and thought of it as an isolated gesture until a Montrealer, whose Slovac parents had settled on this continent, related a similar tale. He had practiced the same hobby on the family property south of Montreal, near the Canada-US border. Upon his father’s death, he also scattered the ashes where together they had gathered chanterelles and boletes.

Does the pleasure and happiness derived from mushroom picking bring people together beyond all frontiers and why not, beyond their earthly stay?  

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