Friday, September 26, 2008

Meadow Mushrooms:

(I cannot seem to find writing time at present, so here's another bit from Cebah's Kitchen to fill in. Oh if only the autumn rains would arrive - everything is parched to a crisp here... mushrooms of any sort daren't rear their heads.)

Meadow Mushrooms

"The moon hath pulled the midnight mushrumps up." (Shakespeare)

The fall I'm thinking of is not remembered by the glorious days,
which I'm sure it had, of crisp blue sky and flame-colored leaves. Of
all the falls past the one with the mushrooms was surely the best.
For one thing it was the final round of my first passionate love and
we were just secure in our happiness. The end of summer turned wet.
Day after day misty rains watered the cow pastures, interspersed with
still afternoons dimmed by seamless grey clouds. It was never cold, but
mellow. The light rains, more like descending mists than showers,
veiled horizons and distances until the farm itself seemed distant from
the outside world. The colors of the turning leaves were saturated with
moisture to the deepest of reds and oranges, yet were muted in the pale
mists to half-lit pastels, vivid only at close range, rich contrast to
the damp darkened twigs and black-barked tree trunks.
The full moon came, and as we so often had before, we wandered
through the fields to wonder at it, ever obscured this time, an orb
behind a moving screen. The next day saw them on the hill pasture
beyond the cow barn, scattered lines and wheels of white dots upon the
close-cropped turf, meadow mushrooms, everywhere!
Every afternoon for a half-week we took baskets with us on our walks.
The cowpastures that saddle the ridge of the hill were thick with them.
We could afford to be selective, picking only the largest and most
perfect buttons, still snowy white and dense at the size of golf balls!
So perfect that I couldn't resist gently squeezing and sniffing their
flesh like a cannibal as I pinched off the black loam from their stems
and piled them in my stash.
It was a daily reason to ramble over the low bottoms, listening to
the distant calls of the crows, picking bouquets of goldenrod, sapphire
toothed rods of lobelia, cerulean blurs of mistflower, tiny fragrant
spirals of ladies tress, to lay atop our baskets full of pink-gilled
wonders, some hickory nuts stowed to one side. The walks were
unhurried, the mushrooms were going nowhere, and we had nowhere else
we'd rather be, walking slowly over the mellow earth, talking quietly,
gathering what we treasured most.
Back in the kitchen they became many delicious things. Never before
nor since have I had so many mushrooms to eat, and we ate them every way
I could think of. We dipped the bite-sized buttons in egg and rolled
them in seasoned flour, frying them in an inch of oil until they were
crisp brown on the surface, delicate toothy yet molten earthiness
inside. They stewed with a rabbit, some onions and a sprig of thyme in
the maroon of a bottle of St. Emilion. They were simply sauted in
butter and poured with their buttery liquor over eggs scrambled with
cream. When I saw that there was no end of them in sight, I singled out
the tiniest tightest buttons, packed and peppered them in a wide-mouthed
jar with spriggins of oregano and marinated them in olive oil spiked
with sherry vinegar, to eat as snacks, or dress the late lettuces and
arugula with.
The weather cleared, turned deep blue and brilliant, spiking the
bottomlands with light frost. The leaves brightened, rallied to a high
pitch in the sun and fell, in whispering red and gold drifts. Halloween
came and went, November staked its claim on the chilly starlight and
waning sun. We ate the last of the piquant oiled meadow mushrooms at
Thanksgiving dinner.

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