I love shrooms and grew up eating wild chanterelles picked by Mom & Granny. Burger-sized portabella caps grace the bar-b-q each summer, and I keep the fridge stocked with grocery store Criminis throughout the year. Mushrooms are good for me. I know this to be true. Sautéed and scrambled up with my hens’ organic eggs, mushrooms nourish my soul.
In the early fall, Jasper and I walk the shoulder along a winding drive and kick up the duff of coniferous trees. We admire succulent specimens growing along the way. He sniffs white buttons poking though fallen needles, huffing in the dank earthiness, and I pick a few to identify on our return home. But I end up tossing the mushrooms in the compost bin, too chicken to actually sample.
I suffer from wild fungiphobia. I just learned the proper term this evening, mycophobia. But I'm not really a mycophobe. True mycophobes don’t eat mushrooms at all. In fact, a trip down the produce isle can be a disturbing experience, causing paralysis and irrational screaming. I’m not like that. I suppose my fear of wild mushrooms might be classified as an overly cautious respect for potential poisoning. Potential poisoning seems like a good thing to respect.
It seems everyone knows a story about a whole family that died after eating wild mushroom soup. I don’t want to be known as a killer mom. It’s the same reason I’m afraid to can produce that requires anything more than the simple water-bath canning method. I readily process high-acid foods like tomatoes, salsa, pickles, fruits, jams and jellies in glass mason jars. But I’m afraid to delve into the low-acids, like meats, corn, and legumes. Just like the mushroom soup story, country folklore abounds about the family that died of botulism after eating home-canned green beans. I bought a pressure cooker three years ago. I’ve read the books, but I have yet to conquer the fear. I just don’t want to be that mom.
The New Year brings new challenges. And this New Year, I will hunt and eat wild mushrooms. I’ll face the fear and conquer my wild fungiphobia. I took the first step today by joining the Puget Sound Mycological Society. The annual dues of $30 buy me access to an online community of mushroom enthusiasts in the greater Seattle area. I also have access to Spore Prints newsletters, up-to-date harvesting rules, recipes, a library, and education opportunities on identification and poisoning. Perfect. The shroom social agenda seems jam-packed with a wild mushroom show, meetings, field trips, and something called a Survivors’ banquet. I hope to be a survivor of 2012. If I am, I’ll attend that banquet.
I doubled up and joined the local mycological society of Kitsap County. I meant to join a couple of years ago after picking up a brochure from two guys working a booth at the Kitsap County fair. But the guys looked weird. I’m not trying to be mean or bitchy, but the guys had that Dungeons & Dragons weird thing going on. I pictured clandestine meetings cloaked in deep purple secrecy, with board members tipping goblets of mead, hoarding scrolls of tattered trail maps where “X” marks the sweet spot, and discussing wood-sprites, goblins, and fairies met along the last merry mushroom hunt. I just couldn’t do it, which is kind of ironic, because I really do own a dark purple cape. I have the clothes and jewelry for this sort of gig, not to mention the Rubenesque physique of a common wood nymph. I know I can fit in, but I’ll have to take it slow. I don’t really want to be a total weirdo. I just want to eat some mushrooms.