Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Mushrooms

I want to tell a long story (surprise, surprise) that will end with the reason this post is titled "Mushrooms." I'm one of those people who has to give a whole lot of detail to get to the punchline, and I *will* get sidetracked.

My family loves to cook...and eat, of course.

I've been reminiscing lately about the amount of cooking that was done, by almost all members of the family, and how it extended down, through the lines, so to speak.

My parents were both from very large families, especially by today's standards. My mother was second to the eldest of 10 children, and my father was second to the youngest of 16! I have 50 first cousins. Even though I have just one brother, and he's six years younger than I, it seemed like we had a huge family, because so many of my mother's brothers and sisters came to visit every weekend. My youngest aunts and my uncle really feel more like older siblings than aunts and uncles.

Now, for you to really understand the story, I should be going into lots and lots of detail about the personalities of said uncle, aunts and cousins, and I should tell you that my mother cooked for everyone but cooked by the book, and dad was picky and didn't want his food to be combined or to touch, and I really need to explain that my uncle is some sort of cross between a master gardener and St. Francis of Assisi. He could identify any plant, tree or rock in nature, and he could talk to the animals. He could also fly his bed around the room, but that's also a story for another time.

And so then anyway (as daddy always said), this interesting uncle of mine could identify everything in nature, and he took us on nature walks, and we gathered and identified, and enjoyed every bit of it. We didn't go bowling on Saturday afternoons, we went to the gravel pit and found agates.

One of the things this uncle could do was identify wild mushrooms. He knew which ones were safe to eat. He doesn't live nearby any more and I wouldn't dare pick mushrooms on my own, so as I was braising those white (but fresh!) slices I bought at the grocery store the other day, I got to thinking about the fabulous batches of mushrooms we would pick, and how...as a young mother...I was occasionally lucky enough to take a batch home with me. I would braise them in butter and eat them all, all by myself, my entire lunch, while the babies were napping. Those mushrooms were delicious. Absolutely delicious.

Someday, I'll tell you about the aunt who can bake anything, and can recreate the long-lost family recipes, and repair the ones that people "share" but leave out crucial ingredients. I'll tell you about all the others, too, especially the cousin with the sophisticated palate and another aunt who reads cookbooks as though they are novels.

For now, I'll be grateful for the relatives who grew up with me, and for the relatives who cook, and for an appreciation of the simple things like wild mushrooms from the woods. But like all good baby boomers, this long-drawn out story will end...to be continued....

5 comments:

JudiA said...

Oh, you can't leave me hanging like that...! I love to cook and adore cooking with mushrooms, though I've never picked my own. What a special memory -- thanks for sharing.

JudiA

Katya said...

Oh GOODNESS!!! Sue, were you at my house this evening? (you will better know me as Kae on the soap lists, just so you know!) My dear son informed me just this evening that I must NEVER buy Francesco Rinaldi sauce with the MUSHROOMS in it...NEVER again!!! Oh, how funny. He said after 12 years of living with him, I should KNOW better. He HATES mushrooms! And, as a matter of fact, my grandfather used to be able to identify safe mushrooms as well. My father (one in a set of 8) NEVER ate mushrooms...after all, what if his father made a MISTAKE??
hehehe

Kai said...

Though I've been lucky enough to read past stories of your uncle, I REALLY enjoyed this one about the mushrooms. Just so happens I never met a mushroom I didn't like! A nice dish of sauted buttons or baby shitake, a large GRILLED shitake, a bunch of adorable little enoki in miso with veggies - and on & on. It's only 4:27 A.M. and I am salivating for mushrooms, and wanting to EAT them as I sit across from you so you can tell me more about your fascinating uncle. What a pleasant post to read! Made for a very fine start to this day! Thank you!

LilyWhite said...

I had sauteed mushrooms with garlic for lunch yesterday!

Mmmmm! What about Lolo's wonderful pickled green beans?! I never tasted a pickled anything as delicious!

Sue said...

Oh, my! I forgot about the pickled greenbeans! I have to see if I can find that recipe.

Do you remember the year that she and I took an entire WHEELBARROW of beets from the garden and made them into pickled beets? We had enough for years...until the moving van wreck.