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Stacey Lehman

Mycology [by Stacey Harwood-Lehman]


photos 2021 (c) Jessica Kerns

This summer we have had so much rain here in the Finger Lakes that mushrooms, both edible and toxic, are popping up everywhere and the hunters are out. Better be careful! Over on Facebook, where friends are posting photos of their fungus finds, polymath Jessica Kerns responded with an emphatic "NO!" when I asked if I could serve up a spectacular mushroom I'd spotted while walking the dog. Elsewhere she notes that "[t]he forests are magical right now. Hunting mushrooms for harvest is therapy." Scroll through her photos, above, and you'll see what she means. "Not all of these are edible," says Jessica, "but two of them are and they are delicious!" Extra credit if you can guess which to saute with butter and garlic and a splash of wine and which belong in an Agatha Christie novel.  

I'm reminded of this poem: 


        by Sylvia Plath

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot's in the door.

And this passage from The Debt to Pleasure, a favorite contemporary novel by John Lanchester, also comes to mind: 

    On the seat beside me were my wicker basket, my Sherlock Holmesian magnifying glass (hardly ever used or needed), and my copy of Champignons du nos pays by Henri Romagnesi (ditto, though I also keep all six volumes of Champignons du Nord et du Midi by Andre Marchand back at the house).

    In the following account, the alert reader will notice that I am being a little bit coy about the geographical specifics. Forgive me, but we amateur mycologists, especially amateur mycologists of a culinary bent, passionately guard our favored patches of land--a promising batch of cèpes-yielding beeches here, a cropped roadside thronging with ink-caps there, a yonder patch of nettles known to feature spectacular examples of Langermannia gigantea, or the giant puffball, and somewhere else a field with a healthy quantity of cow excrement conducive to the fructation of the nasty tasting but currently popular halucinogen Psilocybe semilanceata, appropriately known in English as the Liberty Cap. (This, by the way, is not as it is sometimes taken to be, the hallucinogen used by the notorious shamans of the Koryk tribe in far Siberia, the Amanita muscaria, or fly agaric, ingestible via reindeer or indeed human urine, most often popularly reproduced in the image of a re-capped white-dotted toadstool, providing a convenient seat for any momentarily resting elf or fairy. The shamans call that mushroom the Wapag, after a body of magical beings who inhabit the fungi with a view to passing on secrets from the realm of the spirits.) We mushroom hunters are a secretive and wary breed, and it is through ingrained force of habit that I confine my account of the site of my labors to the description: a patch of land somewhere in the south of France. . .

Bon Appetit! 

July 04, 2021

March 17, 2021

February 17, 2021

January 22, 2021

October 26, 2020

September 20, 2020

September 17, 2020

August 26, 2020

August 25, 2020

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August 16, 2020

June 19, 2020

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December 13, 2019

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November 05, 2019

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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