"with the door locked; because of the morals of the maids’’
November 8, 2015 9:26 PM   Subscribe

More like the morels of the maids, amirite?
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:34 PM on November 8, 2015 [8 favorites]

posted by telstar at 10:15 PM on November 8, 2015

Joe is such a fun guy.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:39 PM on November 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Articles like this make me really want to get into mushroom foraging, but I also really don't want to die. And so I don't.
posted by lollusc at 11:09 PM on November 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Worth reading: this guy's detailed and down-to-earth description of his experience of accidental, self-induced life-threatening wild mushroom poisoning. What really strikes me in that narrative, by the way, isn't mycology but psychology: the fact that in spite of having insurance, he didn't call a doctor until three hours after beginning to suspect he had eaten a mushroom nicknamed "The Destroying Angel." The moral of the story (and I don't say this in judgment of the author, because he seems plenty aware of it) is that if you eat a wild-gathered mushroom, and not long thereafter you develop dramatic gastrointestinal distress, heave your pride overboard and seek medical help RIGHT THEN, because no matter how embarrassed you feel, you are going to feel way more embarrassed once the doctors are discussing how they might need to give you somebody else's liver.
posted by ostro at 12:09 AM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

On a more cheerful note, when I was in college the professor who taught my Russian lit class would sometimes relocate it outside on nice spring mornings, and we'd always be greeted cheerfully in Russian several times per hour by local Russian immigrants who were slowly circling the college's lake looking for mushrooms.
posted by ostro at 12:16 AM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Mushrooms : me :: My cat : water

Which is to say: the curiosity is acute, the jitters moreso. My kitty is keen to paw at an ice cube melting after it's dropped from the freezer, or lick the shower curtains while I'm in the bath, but were I to spill a drop of water within a meter of her she'd hightail it into the next room.

My friends in grade school used to rag on me about my "mushroom-phobia", my brother knew how to taunt me and get me to scream 'uncle' due to my squeamish-ness... but I chose to assemble a school science fair project on mushrooms one year. So, you know, 'phobia' is rather insufficient to describe my brain vis-a-vis mushrooms.

With this backdrop, the headline "Sex, Death, Mushrooms" grabs my attention: if fungi are readily (or even tangentially-via-thinkpiece) associated with such universal human experiences as sex and death, maybe my "fascinated-but-hell-no' attitude towards mushrooms isn't so pathological. Maybe our little decomposers have a more outsized connection to the human experience. And, like sex & death, it's a complicated connection.

Clyde Christensen's Foolproof Four offers a tempting counterpoint, presenting a cut-and-dried (pun in there, somewhere) take on mushrooms: these four species, anytime, anywhere -- edible, safe, delicious. But I agree with the article's take, that mushrooms are better charactierized as alien forms reflecting a world we scarcely know.
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 12:37 AM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

For starters you could concentrate on boletus (especially boletus edulis), as they are quite distinct and can hardly be confounded with inedible and poisonous mushrooms. Chanterelles are delicious and very distinct, too, as are true morels. The common stinkhorn, which could be confounded with morels, does (as the name indicates) stink, and it's not poisonous, it just tastes really bad.

Contrary to what the guy in the article says, it's not rocket science, I mean, non-biologists have been collecting and eating mushrooms for ages. Most poisonings are actually not due to the species of the mushroom but to wrong preparation: cook / fry them sufficiently, but don't keep them heated for hours or re-heat them, as the proteins might degenerate. Most people actually die of poisonings by two species: destroying angel and death cap, as they can, especially when young, be confounded with button mushrooms, although the former 2 have white lamellas, button mushroom's lamellas are light brown to almost black. Anyhow, button mushrooms are cheaply to buy, so it's not really worth hunting for them.

Again, the cep is almost impossible to confound with an inedible or poisonous mushroom, due to ist distinct appearance and hardness to pressure. And it's delicious.
posted by ojemine at 12:38 AM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

As always with food: if in doubt, don't eat it. If it smells bad, probably not a good idea to eat it, too.
posted by ojemine at 12:40 AM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I used to encounter Destroying Angels every year when I lived in Missouri. They are beautiful mushrooms, flawless and white-to creamy-gray in color, and once I was able to recognize them I noticed that, unlike most other fungi, you almost never find bites taken from them. I suspect other mammalian species have somehow learned to avoid them too.

That being said, Chanterelles, Boletes, Lepiotas, and one of my all-time favorites, the Blewit are all very tasty and not hard to ID if you are willing to go to the trouble of taking spore-prints. Also, take walks with a local fungus-fancier who is still alive!
posted by Agave at 2:46 AM on November 9, 2015

It spore form to make mushroom puns, folks.
posted by mcrandello at 2:46 AM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

There is a mycology society in Quebec that routinely organizes foraging trips for members and novices; I have always wanted to go but have yet to do so. The world of mushrooms is a strange and fascinating one.
posted by Kitteh at 3:13 AM on November 9, 2015

ojemine: "As always with food: if in doubt, don't eat it. If it smells bad, probably not a good idea to eat it, too."

Not a gorgonzola fan, eh?
posted by Splunge at 3:16 AM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

One year when I was at boarding school, a profusion of mushrooms sprouted in a field next to the football pitches. About half the school decided not to tell the other half of the school, and picked them all, and were given special permission to have the school kitchens fry them and serve them for tea. The other half of the school watched with envy as the rare dish was produced on toast and devoured with abundant, gleeful and unsharing relish.

Less than an hour later half the school was forming disorderly queues outside the lavatories and went up to bed early, and the master who had identified the fungi as safely edible did not come back the following term. At the time we made fun of our fellows, but in retrospect we were a hairs-breadth away from a tragedy.

Fungi fascinate me, but after that I'd never eat one I'd picked myself.

Helen Macdonald's writing is like David Attenborough's voice: a prism for the natural world to reveal itself.
posted by Hogshead at 4:02 AM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

I've eaten lots of chanterelles and morels, and have picked both. But I know of enough poisonings by people who should know better to be cautious beyond those basic and easy ones.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:11 AM on November 9, 2015

I remember when Jon Anderson (my jo )and Yes sang about their experiences harvesting mushrooms:
Death defying, mutilated armies gather near,
Crawling out of dirty holes, the morels, the morels disappear*

Yesterday a morning came, a smile upon your face**
Caesar's palace, morning glory, silly human, silly human race . . .
* Presumably, because, you see,
They'd eaten every one . . .

** I think this may be due to a different type of mushroom, especially when you consider the business with "flying purple wolfhounds".

posted by Herodios at 7:07 AM on November 9, 2015

Recently, I've begun to expand my mushroom foraging. Very, very carefully. At this point, I don't feel certain it's worth it. So: do what ojemine says
posted by mumimor at 7:14 AM on November 9, 2015

Ah the old cauliflower mushroom is mentioned here too! Some people find them the most delicious among mushrooms; what I know is that they are a pain to clean (but nice-tasting, true). Also, they always come back at the same spot (if not the trees are cut down and everything destroyed, like at the spot where I once found one [literally three minutes from my home!]).

Anyway, yeah mushrooms.
I'm mostly picking various boletus varieties, chanterelles and a few other easily id-ed mushrooms. Only this year I somehow missed when it happened. And then the season's over and moose shooting starts, and you won't want to be in the woods with a bunch of moose-lusting Swedes lurking everywhere, even if you're dressed up with flashlights like a Christmas tree...
posted by Namlit at 8:35 AM on November 9, 2015

If foraging ain't your thing there's also mushrooms you can grow on your porch. I just inoculated a couple of nice oak logs with Shiitake, oyster and maitake plugs.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 8:37 AM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

The very best thing about the impending El Niño isn't the effect it will have on the California's water supply -- it's that we'll finally have a mushroom season after two years of mushroom drought. With the rain we received yesterday and today, there might be chanterelles popping in the East Bay by the weekend!
posted by mudpuppie at 10:55 AM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

As always with food: if in doubt, don't eat it. If it smells bad, probably not a good idea to eat it, too.

Survivor's accounts sometimes include the observation that the deadly Death Cap mushroom (Amanita Phalloides) tastes good.
posted by telstar at 11:29 AM on November 9, 2015

Mention an interest in fungus, and there's one question you'll get asked more than any other...
The following, if followed carefully, will reliably get you where you need to go from the San Francisco Bay Area northward along the coast all the way up to the Puget Sound region:
Look in planted areas, especially landscaping mulched with wood chips. Look for white stems, tan gills, caps the color of caramel. Three to six centimeters tall. Pinch the caps - if the bruised spots start turning blue in a couple of minutes, you're getting warm. Set them gills-down on a sheet of white paper for a half hour - if the spore print is dark brownish purple, you are good to go. Enjoy your flight. Do not drive or operate heavy equipment. Do not let the kids bring 'em to school for Show and Tell.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 6:30 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

And here is Ray Mears' mate Prof Gordon Hillman on his mushroom experience (youtube.)
posted by glasseyes at 1:07 PM on November 10, 2015

That's an interesting article about the guy who poisoned himself with deathcaps. I can't fathom his state of mind though: he seems to have a lot of rituals going on (though no doubt he would call them examples of transcendent thinking) in order to assure himself his life is under control. As an ant-anxiety tactic I can understand it but when it makes him think he knows what he's doing (because he's doing it right - see the eating of the mushrooms in the first place) it makes him extraordinarily vulnerable because...he's deluded.
posted by glasseyes at 1:20 PM on November 10, 2015

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