Morals & Morels-This one's for you Dad!
Jun. 9, 2010 8:20 am
Updated: May 24, 2011 6:42 pm
At first glance one might find the title a bit odd as this originally started as a reminiscence of my father and our mutal love for Morels but there is a reason that maybe only a mushroom hunter will understand. For those unacquainted with this woodland
fungus, they are a Springtime treat to rival any grocery store accessible gourmet mushroom. They do not grow in all parts of the United States and they can be quite the fickle find. Dependent on the weather and some say balmy nights & Elm trees, these magnificent
mushrooms begin popping up mid April in Missouri. Once word spreads of a sighting the hunt is on. Both public and private properties are searched. Here's the moral part of this story. If you see a furtive person emerging from any woodsy area while covertly
covering a sack, you can make one of two assumptions. The first one; this is a person who has morals and Morels, they just don't want their beloved mushroom patch to be plundered by anyone observing their full sack. The second; that they have Morels and
no morals. They are trespassing thieves that are skulking away quickly to avoid possible loss of their purloined produce to the rightful & most likely outraged owner of that patch.
Yes, indeed, a slimy snake has each season been stealing myshrooms from my father's prized patch. Only this season he not only got them all, he got caught red handed. This unabashed thief who's ears should still be smoking made off with more than my fungus.
He stole an opportunity. Only another cook who loves a challenge will truly understand my missed chance. What would that be? To have crab stuffed Morels. Did I think of this idea? Heavens no!! Recently at the beginning of mushroom season a local chef
gave a recipe to our newspaper's food section for homemade cream of mushroom soup garnished with a crab stuffed Morel. Naturally, I stopped at one of our big grocery stores and surveyed the crab section. I looked at it all. Everything from still in the
shell to that odd stuff with the red stripe on it. Being landlocked I'm not real familiar with fresh seafood but I'm pretty sure the red striped stuff wasn't what I wanted. I settled for on a 6 oz pouch of "blue swimming crab" at about a $ an oz. Morels
were the only thing I needed. The chef didn't say how he stuffed the morel or how he made the stuffing. He just gave the recipe for the soup. Leeks, creminis, shitakes, chicken stock, heavy cream & dry sherry were the basis for his soup. I'd bet his soup
is good but with the exception of the chicken stock the other stuff I never have and don't buy. I'm pretty happy with the mushroom soup I make, my real goal was attempting a crab stuffed Morel! Hey, I figured to post on the Recipe Exchange and see if anyone
could give suggestions for the stuffing. Surely some coastal reader or a fellow seafood lover would have a few.
So naturally when the weather conditions were favorable and my BIL started finding them, I headed for the South 40. It's 40 acres of what once was my grandfather's 160 acre farm. Here's where I learned to hunt mushrooms with my father. Beautiful old growth
woods with ravines, creeks and 2 ponds. I love these woods and it's here I have one of my fondest memories of my Dad.
Dad had been suffering from Rheumatoid arthritis for some time and it was really affecting his health. I'm not sure which was worse the arthritis or what the doctors were doing for it. Anyway, the winter of this story had been hard on him. Unable to do much
anymore was very taxing on a man who loved to fish and garden. And, yes, hunt mushrooms. When Spring arrived, Dad pestered his doctor until he got permission to go hunting. He had two condtions; take someone with him and don't over do it. So he called
me, his youngest daughter who lived on the farm overseeing his cows and had a four wheeler. "Could you take me mushroom hunting, I can't walk that far?". "Of course. When?" A time was arranged and with my Mother's admonishments still ringing in both our
ears, I rode Dad down to the S40 and into the woods where we always began our search. He wasn't even off the 4-wheeler when he spotted his first little grey one. Dad was so excited. To anyone who hasn't hunted mushroom, equate his excitment with a child
hunting Easter eggs. I share this excitment but never seemed to have the luck he did finding mushrooms. Oh, I'd get some but Dad would always come out of those woods with a sackful.
Again for the non hunter, a small explanation might be in order. Avid mushroom hunters can be the most honest of people but they will look you right in the eye & LIE about their patch's location. To further illustrate, a local author who found a walloping
753 Morels this season said he might give up his bank account & social security #'s. But as far as the locale of his mushroom mother lode it was somewhere North of Mexico and south of Canada. So when Dad suggested I go look "thatta way" and gestured with
his cane in the opposite direction he was headed I knew he was headed for his patch. That was fine as long as I didn't totally lose track of him. I wandered off to the old pond and preceded down below it's dam. Idly looking at rocks and wildflowers,
I wasn't paying any attention until I heard cracking sounds followed by cursing. I turned in the direction of the commotion. Slowly my gaze drifted up to land on my father who was trying to beat his way out of a multiflora rose bush with his cane. (For
those that don't have these vile vicious rosebushes, once snagged by them only the loss of hide or damage to clothing will release you.) Frowning, I wondered whatever possessed him to get on the overgrown dam. My line of sight being roughly at the level
of his feet, I noticed something. Actually a lot of somethings since I had to climb the dam to try and extricate my swearing father. Scrambling up the bank, I stood in front of him with arms crossed, eyebrows raised and asked, "Is there something you'd
like to share with me?" Grumbling & still swearing under his breath, Dad said something that sounded like, "I was gonna tell you". "Reaaally Daddy? At about what point did you decide to share this particular location with me? Before or after you got stuck
in that rosebush?" Ok, so maybe it was wrong of me to let him hang there in the rosebush for a couple of minutes while I gazed pointedly at all those Morels covering the dam but after all those years of hunting with him I felt rather justified. Hey, he was
ruthless in the woods. Many a branch was accidentally loosed into an unsuspecting face to forestall the follower from beating Dad to his prize.
That day, though, the tables were turned as I helped hin out of the rosebush. We shared a laugh or two while I poked fun at him for being so secretive. I even braved the poison ivy (which I'm highly allergic to) to collect mushrooms he couldn't. Happy he
was to go home with a fine mess of mushrooms that day. So happy he even offered to share half of his find but I said no. I'm so glad I. That was Dad's last mushroom hunt. Complications from the RA took him later that year. Nope, I'm pretty sure the mushrooms
wouldn't have tasted as good as savoring that memory he helped make. One that still makes me laugh when I stand there in that same spot where Dad had to finally share the location of his secret patch. Best of all, it's a memory I've shared with my son while
teaching him to hunt mushrooms. Just like the grandfather he never got a chance met taught me.
Thanks for the memory, Dad.
Sorry, the fence cutting trespassing moral-less Morel stealing snake got all the mushrooms this year so there's no happy ending with a crab stuffed morel recipe. Why didn't I try it with the ones in the picture, you might ask? Cause I had to pour water on
the poor dried out things to hydrate them enough to snap their photo. Wild Morels are at the mercurial mercy of the perfect combo of warmth and rain. Alas, their bloom is all too brief and the thief just happened to miss these. What did I do with the crab?
Made the best tasting crab rangoon I've ever had. I'm thinking the same named stuff I've gotten out may have been a lot more cream cheese and a lot less crab. Till next year's season comes. 300,299,298...............
Wish there were more