Mushroom Love (2007)

Okay. So you come from a country where folks don’t pick wild mushrooms and eat them. Get over it. This is mushroom territory. Surely you’ve picked up on the Smurf-like vibe around here. The traditional red barretina, the circle dances, Gaudi’s buildings… yeah. It’s no coincidence that the famous fly agaric mushroom –Amanita muscaria, the red one with white spots— grows wild in Catalonia, and is still used by a select group of hard-core freaks. An indispensible ingredient of witch’s “flying” potion, the Amanita offers the closest thing to a guaranteed bad trip when consumed in low doses. If a little bit more than that is consumed, madness and death may ensue. No one does Amanita for fun anymore, but back in the days when there weren’t so many ways of getting high, the woods were full of folks tripping their balls off on a bite of smurf-house. Which actually explains a few things about the country you may have been wondering about…

If this makes your mouth water, you are not French

So in your country mushrooms are either an exotic pizza ingredient, something that grows between your toes or a mind-altering substance. But that doesn’t mean that mushrooms aren’t also a great delicacy and source of fat-free protein. Here if you go to the market in Autumn, you can feast your eyes on a variety of edible mushrooms: rovellons, rossinyols, ceps, trompetes de la mort… Most of these are hand picked in forests, a traditional Catalan pastime. Any given Sunday in fall, after the rain, you can see entire families scouring the woods with their baskets and their mini rakes. Of course, one thing is finding and picking mushrooms, and another thing is actually sitting down and eating them. You’re either very sure of what you’ve picked, or you end up in the hospital with a tube down your stomach, which happens with regularity during mushroom season. Due to the popularity of mushroom-picking in Catalonia, professional pickers who supply the markets do their hunting in southern France, where the natives prefer pickled duck ass to fungi. Strange lot, the French.

2010 update: the French now charge for picking mushrooms in their forests, and use the proceeds to stock up on pickled duck ass.

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