Newfoundland Chanterelles ! A gustatory delight ,free for the taking.

Newfoundland Chanterelles !  A gustatory delight ,free for the taking.

Some time ago I wrote a blog on chance remarks and their repercussions.  My interest in collecting chanterelle mushrooms came about from just that sort of event.

A good friend of mine invited me to dinner one evening to meet another friend of hers who is a very well known and successful Newfoundland artist.  During the course of the meal she mentioned that I have a summer place in Cupids.  This prompted her esteemed guest to ask  where my cottage was.  When I started my detailed description including historic landmarks, a beauty salon and an old church that had been transformed into a b&b I realized that this man knew the area quite well.  That prompted me to ask about his interests in Cupids.

” My wife and I go there every year in late summer and gather mushrooms.” he told me.

” Really ?” I asked.  “You mean there are edible mushrooms in Newfoundland?”

“Oh yes, my wife makes wonderful chanterelle soup from them.”

” How can you tell the ones that are good to eat?”

”  Well they are easily recognizable, not at all like the toadstools that you are no doubt familiar with” he explained.

He took a piece of paper and did a quick sketch of chanterelles. Carefully  he described the colour and the irregular shapes I might encounter.  I thought not only am I learning something new but I am getting a sketch from this famous artist. I was tempted to ask him to sign the sketch but felt that would be too tacky.   I took the drawing and folded it carefully into my purse . It was over a year later that I thought about it again.

I was searching for blueberries, big juicy ones.  Small berries don’t interest me. I turned to go up a path to my favourite area   when I noticed  a yellow gelatinous mass on the ground. I had seen similar hundreds of times before.  But this time my mind  flashed back to the sketch I had been given.  I bent down, pulled aside some undergrowth and found more of the yellow objects .  On close examination I noticed they were not mushy at all but firm and trumpet shaped.  Chanterelles, I guessed!

I knew what prospectors feel when they discover gold.

I gathered some.  But I wouldn’t eat them till I could find someone to assure me I was not going to be poisoned.  It was a dilemma because I really didn’t know any  mycologists.   Whom could I ask?

Then I remembered I had to drive through Holyrood on my way back to St. John’s  That is where my mushroom artist lived.  Maybe I could just knock on his door and ask him to take a look. I hoped that wouldn’t be too brash of me.

With some trepidation I did just that.  I found the house , a modest country cottage , pastoral , as you would expect from this artist whose brush recreates tree roots and earthy scenes.  I knocked on the door .  Within a few minutes a charming lady answered.  I guessed her to be his wife and explained the story of how her husband had told me about chanterelles, drawn a sketch for me and told me the general area where they had gathered them.  ( He wouldn’t get specific because chanterelles are scarce so keeping your find secret is essential to preserving your harvest.   Fishermen in Newfoundland would do the same when they found a good fishing ground.  It is a part of our heritage to be secretive about our good food sources if that food is not abundant.)

She asked,” do you have some with you?”

” In my car, ”  I answered.

“Well , let’s go see.”

I opened my trunk , took out the basket of mushrooms and showed her. She studied them carefully ,passed them back to me and said, “You’ve got yourself some chanterelles!”

Since then I was invited to dine with both her and her husband again. We talked about our harvest of mushrooms hedging around the location of our finds. But when I gathered some just yesterday I remembered some of their references and I think that we go to the same place but from opposite directions.  One day I might just meet them on the path and we will get a chuckle out of it.

This September I am hoping to go foraging on Fogo Island with a group of people who have an interest in mushrooms. Some of these foragers come from other countries.  Perhaps we will learn of  other edible mushrooms that grow here. I will write later about this experience if I am lucky enough to get off the waiting list.  Apparently I am not the only Newfoundlander  who is interested in fungi .

Chanterelles can sell for $25 /lb in some places but  I can get them for free here in Newfoundland. Mine will not be sold. I fry them and enjoy the nutty flavour with chicken, fish too, and alone with rice.  Yummmmmmmmm!

chanterelles sizzle in the pan

chanterelles sizzle in the pan

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Criticism

It has been a long time since I wrote in my blog. Today I thought I would like to do some work on my observations of how people around me have given me the opportunity to examine myself.  I am not in the league of the Dalai Lama , Buddha, Einstein, Socrates or any of the great thinkers or philosophers but I have the benefit of a few years of observation and reflection that I would like to share and receive comments on if you wish to make them.  I have no answers about how one should live his life only how my own has always had lots of room for improvement.  And I see how I learn from the reflections of my actions just what works for me and what doesn’t.  Often the reflection comes through the effect I have on people and things around me. And how they respond impacts my perception of myself. .So how can I use that impact  in the most productive way?  Simply by changing my perception and making it work for me rather than against me.

 Criticism

Oh I am as guilty of this as much as the next fellow. Criticising  , that is  Yet there are those wonderful people who seem to go with the flow, roll with the punches and still come out smiling without complaint. Not me.  I simply HAVE to voice my opinion of the actions of others that don’t jibe with how I perceive they should behave.  I work at it.  Really I do . Usually I say nothing to them.  And when  I do have to vent , I choose my sounding board carefully. It is a matter or survival after all.  And besides who wants a comeback that will be damaging to the ever-present ego.

The odd thing is that I cannot stand listening to people who criticise others.  It appears to me that indirectly they are boasting about themselves.

I give and receive criticism . For example;  I have a way of folding my sheets that suits me just fine.  My mother has her way of doing it which I really don’t like.  She chooses an accordion style and I like mine to tuck in so that when I lift them nothing dangles.  I have learned to say nothing because when once I superciliously proclaimed that  I  ( said with emphasis) NEVER do MINE that way , I got a look that would take the starch right out of those sheets.  And her indignation  is understandable.  It really doesn’t matter how she folds her sheets or how I do mine as long as we are both pleased with what we have to handle. Lesson learned.

Many years ago well over  a third of a century past, I remember peeling potatoes for a friend at her house.  I was peeling so that I would make sure the skin came off very thinly because when I was a child  my mother had been very particular about not wasting potatoes .  She managed a restaurant for a time and how she would mutter under her breath about the wasteful  young man who peeled the potatoes for French fries.  It was nigh  a capital offence in her mind.  She was mindful of the dollars and cents and  many of those thick skins would make a full order of fries if care were taken to shave the potatoes carefully.

Anyway I had heard this over and over for many years so when I peeled potatoes I took great pains to do it in a way that would make my mother proud.  After doing a gallon  for the acquaintance I was visiting I cut them up for boiling.  No fries on this occasion.  I was very pleased with myself.

But not for long.

The lady I was helping took one look at my workmanship, stuck her nose in the air, put her hand in the pot , took out one potato and with a look of utter scorn sniffed the words, “ Eyes!  These potatoes have eyes.  I can’t stand having eyes looking up at me from my plate!”

Well. I never forgot that day. I never forgot how deflated I was and embarrassed.  My face was flaming as it always did when I received disapproval . I am sixty-three now . I rarely blush.  But back then approval from others mattered.  And I still remember the incident  as if it were yesterday though I have long ago realized that I should have just laughed it off.

But to this day , in my kitchen, potatoes skins are peeled off as delicately as a debrided burn , and the eyes are neatly cored out and put in the garbage.  It is a habit born out of criticism.  What I don’t understand is why I do that. I don’t mind a little wastage from thick peels nor do I care about the remnants of an eye on my potato.

In fact these matters mean absolutely nothing to me. I gather my behaviour comes from attributing too much importance to the opinions of others.

Often people make trivial preferences sound like life or death matters and we question our own way of doing things as if somewhere in the universe there is a list of dos and don’ts that we must pay attention to.  And it is a given that there will be some one who will have that list memorized.  Generally it is a self-appointed authority who will raise her/himself up by pointing out your deficiencies.

But I have learned that the very things we criticize in others is what we dislike most about ourselves.  I see it when my friends complain.  But I dare not mention it because I have learned that there is no faster method to have my faults pointed out than to suggest someone else has any.    So the next time, my friend interrupts me when I am talking or says something I don’t like,  I will silently thank her for irritating me.  My irritation is the marker that indicates what I must work on in myself.

Who would want to buy a beaver’s house?

Who would want to buy a beaver's house?

This home is resting in the middle of a pond between the towns of Glenwood and Gander. It speaks to the Newfie tenacity and sense of humour that someone acquired the sign, drove to the middle of nowhere, walked across a wide expanse of ice, and placed the sign on top of this home. I wonder if the beavers got a kick out of it as I did when I spotted it from the highway.