But she went on. John is taking her mushroom hunting in the woods that surround the lake in southern Indiana. She calls herself a Hoosier, but this will be her her first foray into the woods for fungus.
For my sister Nancy, Lisa's would have been a must-do offer. She's always loved mushroom hunting. At Easter this year, when the big kids were looking for money laden eggs at Shakamak State Park, she was scouting for 'shrooms.
If you're not from the country you may not know that Springtime in Indiana is the time the woods are alive with fungus. Morels are the holy Grail -- the biggest and best, but there are a lot of different ones -- small, medium, dark, light. All musky , velvety and kind of phallic, if truth be told. They're sneaky little buggers, though, and like to hide. So to be a good mushroom hunter, you have to have great vision, great patience and a great affinity for all God's creations.
- I can barely see with my glasses on or my contacts in.
- I have never met this thing called patience.
- And while I love many things, creepy, sleepy snakes just waking up from their winter's lethargy are not among them.
I remember my dad taking us out in the woods when I was a kid -- back home you keep your mushroom hunting territory to yourself much like the Sanders family guard the special recipe and the Coca-Cola family shields the formula.
How people don't walk all over each one's area was beyond me then and is beyond me now. It was all such a secret. Yet there was limited land. I'm guessing there was a lot of criss-crossing, but like fishing, mushroom hunting is a silent game. (yet another reason I'm not good at either) so maybe the hunters never knew each other was in their territory -- unless the evidence of shorn mushrooms was found.
So Dad would pile us in the truck and then send out out in the woods. He seemed to think we had an inborn talent for it just because we were related to him. Or maybe he was just getting us out of my Mom's hair for a while.
Invariably, I'd be somewhere within his sight, stumbling along looking out desperately for snakes and stepping all over the mushrooms I never -- as in EVER -- saw.
I'd hear him say, "Cheryl. Stop right there!"
Every time I was sure he was warning me about a snake. But no. He'd say, "Can't you see it?"
"See what?" I'd shout, looking this way and that, straining to hear the slither. Sure I was in the sights of some fanged monster.
"Just stop and look around."
He'd be crouched down, one knee to the ground. He'd have already collected a dozen morels and their smaller cousins. "Look over there. It's RIGHT there," he'd say.
He would sit there in the middle of the woods and take a long look around him. He must have had some sort of mushroom radar because he'd spy them under leaves and nestled next to rotting branches. He'd point me in the general direction and just shake his head when I never came up with anything.
He never got so frustrated that he left me out there alone, and I never got into trouble for not finding them. For all I know I was just comic relief. In all my years of forced mushroom hunting, I may have found 5. Maybe. But probably because I fell down on them. Come to think of it, I don't know that I ever actually saw a snake either... But they were out there. I just know it.
The hunting is, of course, just the prelude. Once you have an acceptable "mess," you take them home, split them in two and let them bathe in a bowl of water for a while. This isn't just to marinate them. It's to help get the dirt and bugs off of them. Ick.
Then, you dredge them your own breading concoction (another real mushroomer's secret) and you fry them in a cast iron skillet. You can have them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Sometimes you have gravy.
It's a real delicacy. Just like brain sandwiches, Rocky Mountain Oysters and frog legs.
Give me canned, sliced mushrooms. Or porta-bellas stuffed with crabmeat, spinach and yummy cheese.
Yeah, I know they come from the woods, too. And that cheese comes from milk, which spurts from the udders of cows or goats.
But I don't have to forage for the fungus I eat, and I have never yet felt a four-legged creature's udder, teat or any other nether region. Nor do I intend to.
So enjoy mushroom season and all the hand-selected, breaded and pan-fried fungus you want.
I've never yet seen the slithery tail of a viper hidden amongst the produce or dairy aisle of any grocery I've ever shopped. But they do occasionally offer morels fresh from the woods, all cleaned up and shining through sheer plastic film. So if you want to nibble and you're not inclined to find them yourself, you still can.
I can't wait for Lisa to get back. They're newlyweds still. Were I Lisa, I think I'd distract John from ever getting to the woods...