Sunday, September 24, 2006

Fall in France

Fall is here!

I love the change of seasons and though I'm sorry to see summer go, I welcome fall. We've had some nourishing rain & even though it spoiled our trip to the Pyrenees I do welcome it. The fields are now green again except where they are a rich plowed brown ready for winter wheat planting. The first leaves are turning so we'll soon have a spectacle of earthy colors over the hills.

e walnuts are beginning to drop much to the delight of Rupert, our standard poodle & my avatar. He absolutely adores walnuts and is very good at finding them then carefully cracking them & picking out the meat.

Fall is the time of year when my friend Michael and I put on our backpacks when we go on our walks. We fill them with bounty; walnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, apples (did you know that France has more than 1,000 varieties of apple.), quince, pears and juniper berries. It’s sad, but in our part of France there are many, many abandoned farms. Many still have their fruit trees and the crops go unharvested unless someone like us comes along. Still, there's a little bit of naughty school boy in all of us so harvesting this bounty is fun and feels slightly dangerous.
Our wives look forward to our return with full knapsacks and we get some of the satisfaction of bringing home food after a successful hunt as a result. A somewhat childish albeit innocuous pleasure.

I know fall is here because yesterday I picked my first crop of field mushrooms. The conditions were right, rain overnight, but warm and when Rupert & I went for our morning walk there they were in the cow pasture; lots of nice field mushrooms.
I picked about 2 kilos worth and shared them with Huguette & Bavo (Roop's vet & her husband); later in the day I picked some more for our friend Jean who adores them. Even though they're not as glamorous as the cepes the field mushrooms are my favorites. We'll have mushrooms on toast and/or a mushroom omelet for dinner. ( I like to simply clean & slice up the mushrooms then sauté them gently in butter with a bit of finely chopped garlic. I cook them very gently and if I get my timing just right finish them just before they start to release their juices.)

Another nice thing about the field mushrooms is that I don't have risk life & limb to get them. There's a twofold danger. First, there are the local Frenchmen who all seem to
be about 90 years old and know exactly where to look for the cepes, girolles and morilles. They all have their favorite spots and you can see their clapped out cars & vans along the country lanes in the mornings when the weather has been right. They don't take kindly to 'strangers' picking their mushrooms. Cars with Toulousian plates parked in the 'wrong' spot have been known to spontaneously sprout 4 flat tires. Secondly, there are a number of mushrooms that are dangerous to eat. Even with my mushroom book I'm not always sure. You can, of course, pick them anyway and take them to the local pharmacy for identification. It seems that mushroom id'ing is part of the training of a pharmacist. Certainly our Madam Marty knows her stuff. "Those you can eat, but they don't taste good. On the other hand those are delicious; where did you say you found them?" "Oh, somewhere down that way" I say. So the nice thing about field mushrooms is that even I can identify them with confidence. And, I don't have to compete for them.

Fall is definitly here. I'll start posting fall recipies when we get back from England.

Foie Gras, truffles and pumpkin next,

but .... that's another story.

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