After almost nine years at Gourmet Magazine, I need a new forum for adventure sharing. My heart is split between country I consider home and a city that keeps me excited. It's food and drink that tie them together.
I've been trying to practice being patient. It's not something I'm particularly
drawn to or good at. That's why I love to cook. Cooking delivers immediate
gratification. You can start with a few ingredients, and in no time you've made
something delicious, or at least edible. I find real pleasure in its immediacy.
Still, I've come to believe that some really great things are worth waiting for.
When the sun came out this afternoon after hours of rain, I decided to take a break from my farm chores and walk through the woods to look for morels. These elusive mushrooms are difficult to spot. They blend in with the forest floor and are scattered seemingly at random. Finding them requires a lot of patience. I probably walked past a hundred, never noticing one.
Their scarcity is even reflected in the phrases mycologists use. You forage for mushrooms. You hunt for morels.
About an hour into my wooded walk I started thinking that hunting for morels is a lot like trying to fall in love. In both, it's the idea of finding exactly what we are looking for that drives us. It's the hope that we'll find what will make us happy. And that really requires a lot of patience. As for the morels, well, the conditions have been perfect, I kept telling myself: a lot of rain and unseasonably warm days. But still--nothing. You never find morels when you're looking for them.
Just when I was about to give up and turn back toward the farmhouse, I saw, right in front of me, one perfect, beautiful morel. I took her picture and put the mushroom in a paper bag. Then I left the woods. When you finally find what you've been looking for, you should stop looking.
Back home, I made a snack: a small piece of toast topped with the mushroom (which I'd sautéed with shallot in a little butter), sprinkled with chives. Tomorrow, I might walk through the woods again, but I won't be hunting for morels. I'll just wait until they find me.
Photos by Ian Knauer
If you find only one morel, make it count. Here's a simple yet delicious way to do just that:
Morel on Toast
Serves 1 as a snack Note: Unless you are an experienced mushroom hunter DO NOT forage for morels without an expert guide. Contact your local mycological society for help.
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 small piece bread
1 tsp. finely chopped shallot
1 morel, halved lengthwise
Finely chopped chives
Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat, then fry bread on both sides until crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove the toast, add shallot and morel to the skillet, and season to taste with salt. Cook, stirring, until the mushroom has softened and the shallot is browned, 2-3 minutes. Serve the mushroom on toast, garnished with chives.