by Ashley Rodriquez
I have recently become aware of a sub-culture that exists in the ever growing world of food lovers. The people that exist in this culture are passionate, determined, generous, adventurous, tough, gentle and secretive. They are at times self-less and giving and conversely elusive and greedy. For the mushroom hunter, finding the perfect specimen is the ultimate priority but to share their find and to introduce one to the often secretive world of the forager – well, they are just too darn excited and in love with the fungi not to.
Our day of foraging happened a couple of weeks ago while the sun was still warm and the heirloom Brandywine Tomatoes plucked from the garden prior to leaving, were at their peak. The English language lacks the words to describe the honor and privilege I felt to be a part of this expedition. A permanent grin painted my face as I spent the day with some incredibly passionate local foragers.
In all honesty, my lust for mushrooms is a recent development. As a child I would meticulously peel them off my pizza, remove them from strogonoff and avoid them in stews. I still get slightly squeamish at the texture but can greatly appreciate the depth they lend to many of my dishes. But it wasn’t until taking the proper actions in order to seek out the mushroom rather than simply grabbing them from the store that I was able to truly appreciate fungi.
I have come to honor the mushroom not just for its unmistakable flavor that it imparts but because I now understand it much better (with infinitely more to learn). I have discovered where they come from, the care taken to properly find the best variety and the work needed in order for them to be a part of my dinner.
The more I come to learn about food the more I fall deeper in love with it. Good food is both simple and incredibly complex. The good news for us is that if we choose to select and seek out “good food” – food that is seasonal, often local and grown with skill and passion – then much of the work is done for us and it’s quite easy to convert that food into an unforgettably delicious meal.
Ashley Rodriguez is a chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. You can read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com