Last weekend I went hiking in the woods with a buddy of mine. Hiking is maybe the wrong word. A walk. A walk in the woods. Nearly an eight-mile walk in the woods, but still a walk. Hiking suggests to me some sort of hill. There was no hill.
We had our requisite hotdogs that were twice the length of the bun. There was some fruit. Some saft. It was a proper weekend picnic on a proper Swedish autumn day. But as we continued to walk, we kept noticing other people weighed down by something. Baskets were filled. Bags were filled. People were stooped over, eyes glued to the forest floor. Mushroom pickers! Each and every one of them. Except for us.
And that’s when my own personal version of American exceptionalism kicked in. I can do that. Pick mushrooms. It can’t be that hard. My buddy, tapping his Australian exceptionalism, agreed. So we started hunting for mushrooms. Now, despite both of us having Swedish citizenship, we somehow missed the fungi identification course. Or the fungi test. Or the fungi gene. Or whatever it is that apparently allows Swedes to wander through the forest picking mushrooms without dying.
We knew what chanterelles looked like. Kind of. We’d both bought them at the store. They’re kind of golden colored. Kind of funnel shaped. Kind of easy to identify. So we stopped talking to each other. We stopped looking up and started looking down. We were out to earn that passport.
He found one first. In fact, he looked down and declared that he would find a chanterelle just next to the path. And he did. I did not. I wandered away. Sad and dejected. But still searching. Kind of like a sad puppy that wanders away sad and dejected but still searching for happiness. Similes are hard.
|That's a kilo of kantareller. Edible kantareller.|
But as we continued searching, we started finding mushrooms that seemed chanterelle-esque. They were a little smaller. A little browner. A little less funnel-y. But we kept picking. We started understanding which trees they seemed to grow near. What kind of ground we should be looking for. We’re pretty quick studies. And all of a sudden we each had about a kilo of mushrooms in our little plastic lunch bags. Of course, we still weren’t sure we actually had something edible, but we had something, damn it.
So home we went. He to his wife, me to my chilinuts. We agreed to do some research. You know, so we would avoid dying. Or at least pooping so much we felt like dying. He asked his wife. Yup. Trattkantareller. I sent a picture to my dad and then called him on Skype. I figure if he can diagnose a faulty distributor cap on a car in Sheraton, Australia, from Greeley, Colorado, he can identify an edible mushroom. Yup. Trattkantareller. Success. One kilo of trattkantareller. And confirmation that mushroom identification is inherent to Swedes. Because two people were able to identify them. And that’s science.
Welcome to Sweden. And mushroom hunting.