I stepped out this morning, getting ready for the dash back to Northumberland, and discovered a swarm of fruiting bodies of this poisonous mushroom under the trees across the way to the bottle bank. This one caught my eye, so fresh after the heavy rain yesterday, so vigorously pushed up through the topsoil. These crimson mushrooms, dotted with milky spots, always make me smile, and then I steer well clear. It looks like something alien, in fact, a strange arrival out of nowhere that’s just appeared overnight.
In fact, it was all too hectic this morning to sit down and compose a new entry in this joyful list, but now that we’ve had time to catch our breath, it’s a delight to consider this wonder at leisure. I bet, had we the time today, we might have found an abundance of ceps, those wonderful Penny Bun fungi, that seem to welcome eating with their very name: Boletus edulis.
I chatted with a neighbour about the marvel of truffles, and he remarked how he’d once purchased a small bottle of truffle oil at the local LIDL. Just the once, apparently, as it was an offer not soon repeated. But the flavour was still running around in his olfactory memory to this day. I wanted to recount the story of a brilliant lunch we’d enjoyed in Coìmbra, Portugal, in a posh-but-friendly Italian restaurant out on a jetty over the Mondego river. There the pasta was swathed in parmesan cheese somehow spun out of a swirling cylinder, and doused with truffle oil. The taste experience was intense. Someday, perhaps, on our continental travels, we may indulge ourselves in the real thing, sliced thinly to accompany a cordon bleu dinner. Or then again, we may not.
Anyway, these memories bring me joy, and I don’t mind feeling cheerful at the presence of those speckled red mushroom caps dotted around on the verge, even if they’re inedible. They’re as much a feast for the eyes, of course, as the humble, dun-coloured Penny Bun is for the tongue.