Last year was the first time I ever had memorial day/weekend off since working in a kitchen. I honestly had no clue what to do, but apparently camping seems to be it. Like in almost every kitchen I’ve ever worked in, we weren’t told the restaurant would be closed for memorial day until the very last minute. Immediately, a good friend of mine, Sammy suggested we should go camping, I love the outdoors and was all for it, and so was Richie. So we started to put our heads together and try to find a location, and figure out the rest of the logistics.
As mentioned above, apparently camping was the thing to do, so we had no luck finding a camp site, they were for the most part booked, or very expensive. However, we weren’t willing to give up just yet. We were looking for an outdoor experience, but more than anything, an excuse to leave the city for a couple of days. It so happened that we had a friend who lived upstate, and owned a few acres of woodlands. As a last resort we went, but in order to get the outdoor experience we were looking for we decided to set up a tent as close to the woods as possible and sleep outside (don’t judge).
After taking longer than we should have to set up the tent, as our girlfriends watched from indoors. We acted as any city kids would in the “country” and we drank, ate s’mores and talked about going into the woods that night, but then realizing it was a horrible idea…who knew the floors of the woods weren’t level?
The following morning we woke up a little later than what would have been ideal and headed into the woods. Never having gone foraging for mushrooms, we thought it to be a good idea to try right then and there. It seems that we all had sensory overload..well at least I felt I did. I was taking as many pictures as I could but trying to pay attention to my surroundings as much as possible. Hearing for everything and anything around me branches breaking, leaves rustling, and birds chirping. Feeling…everything and anything touch me and thinking it was a bug or something trying to sting me. Looking, for as many spider webs as I could in order to not walk into them. Looking for signs of mushrooms, and wild life. Smelling the wet earth under my feet. Sammy and Richie were looking for mushrooms as well, while looking for a reason to cut something or climb something.
As we began to search Sammy found the first mushroom, and then it hit us..We had no idea or clue how to differentiate a good mushroom vs. a bad one. We also realized that in the pure excitement of getting out and into the woods, we neglected to bring water, food, or bags for mushrooms. We didn’t however forget to bring our knives. Because we had no clue what we were searching for we decided to collect a little bit here and there and keep them as separate as possible so that when we got back home we could look them up and possibly eat them. In the midst of searching the woods over we found a few mushrooms, frogs, a red tailed hawk, some cool looking wild flowers..and we got lost. It was almost at the same moment that we all looked to each other and realized we had somehow steered off our path, but no one fully admitted to it.
We decided to just keep walking in one direction until we were out. This led us out of the woods eventually, but also further away from our friends house than anticipated. By this time the sun was out and scorching and we were walking on a freshly paved road, close to dehydrated, not really knowing where exactly we were.
With the help of a vague memory and pure luck we found our way back home, drank water and got yelled at by our girlfriends for not calling them.
It was such a shame that we didn’t have the proper resources to go mushroom foraging. But have learned from my mistakes, and bought the River Cottage Mushroom Handbook. It is a great book to have on hand when foraging. clear big photos with a list of characteristics for each variety.