Sometimes the simplest really is the best. This was Lettice's order of spaghetti con funghi at the little cafe in Valvona and Crolla in Edinburgh in August. Pasta, good olive oil, mushrooms quickly fried in oil, parsley. What more could you want?
Now, of course, is THE mushroom moment - except that it isn't. Normally at this time of year our garden is full of wild mushrooms to pick and eat (especially the puffballs, which appear the size of footballs overnight, and which you can slice thick and fry in oil and eat like a vegetarian sirloin steak). But this year, so far, not a one, and I've looked in all the places we normally find funghi.
My mother-in-law had a novel approach to identifying fungus when she lived here: she had a little pamphlet called Poisonous Mushrooms of Great Britain. If it wasn't in the book, she ate it.
I always thought I'd like to adopt the same cavalier attitude until our friend Richard Fortey came to inspect our garden one warm October. He's a naturalist with many interests, and his advanced knowledge of fungi makes him one of the Oxfordshire county mushroom specialists - for example, the police might turn to him in a case of serious suspected mushroom poisoning. He found something like 17 different types of small fungi on the croquet lawn alone: he laid them out on a plate, some of them so similar it was hard to tell them apart. Two were looked to my untrained eyes virtually identical - well, one was edible, the other highly poisonous. Since then, I've stuck to the ones I know are fine, which we eat every year.
It's pouring with rain here now, for the first time in weeks. Fingers crossed for a couple of warm days once it stops ... and then I'll be out looking for field mushrooms and puffballs - but not on the croquet lawn!
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