When I was a kid I found a lot of four-leaf clovers. My mom thought that made me lucky. I hoped that luck would carry over into my first morel-hunting expedition Saturday when my mom took Brian and me out into the woods behind ——— —- —— (you know I can’t tell you where). She had seen one earlier in the week and left it, hoping to return to find more. That was the trial run, spotting one where I knew one existed. I was still a bit giddy when it appeared, magically popping out of the sodden leaves and greenery.
My eyes swept the ground, hoping another morel would materialize. I covered a lot of ground before the first one showed itself to me. That’s morel hunting — long stretches of frustration, then sheer jubilation. An hour or so of traipsing yielded a handful of the mushrooms, just enough to sautee and top an egg with.
After a good downpour, we went back out Sunday, starting in the part of the woods where we’d found the few the day before. Brian and my mom each found one on the trail right away so I had high hopes.
A good while later I was pretty dejected. Brian, with his eagle eyes, had found several. I’d bagged one — one I think he had stepped on; they’re that invisible. Following all the lore around the mushrooms, I’d peered along fallen logs, under May Apples, and had scoured a ridge. Then, as is my fashion, I’d been distracted. I heard a cat meow. What was a cat doing back in these woods? I’d wandered toward the sound until I saw the cat, who promptly disappeared. I’d lost my fellow hunters, and pushed my way through a briar patch to work my way back to where they continued their search under the dripping green canopy.
Then. I swear, it was like a scene where the heavens part and the angels sing and the sun beams down. A single morel the size of my hand glowed 10 feet away. “WHOAH!” I bellowed. My mom heard me and started making her way to me. And then. Then, in the blink of an eye, the waiting treasure revealed itself to me. I was standing in the midst of the motherload. They were everywhere, the illuminated mushrooms so big some of them had fallen under their own weight. I fell into a sort of raptured fit, squealing, clapping, laughing, jumping, tears streaming down my face until I sunk down, fearing I’d literally wet my pants with glee. “LOOOOOOOK,” I shrieked, “there are so many!!!! They’re so big!” I was mad with my discovery, unable and uninterested in containing my delight. I couldn’t believe my eyes — it had to be a morel mirage.
Brian and my mom had arrived by now and we joined in a primitive jubilant rejoicing. “Don’t move!” we cautioned one another, “you’ll step on one!”
We gathered up the bounty, nearly hysterical with laughter and excitement. My hands quivered as I broke morel after morel off at the stem. How much of this adrenaline is evolutionary from finding an abundance of food, and how much is the thrill of the hunt? I don’t know, but if I could bottle and sell the euphoria that bubbled up when that motherload appeared, I’d make a bloody fortune. There were so many we even grew picky, leaving behind those that seemed past their prime, or were smashed. On and on the bounty went, along with our calls of “bring the bag, here are two more,” “here’s another one!”
We took careful mental note of where the magical mystery spot was, counting off paces from landmarks (it’s 20 paces from —– and another 30 from ——, then look for the split tree with all the dead bark at the bottom, next to the rivulet). Then with our mesh bag full to bursting (mesh so that you disperse the spores) we triumphantly emerged from our spot, bound for home and a kitchen.
The loot weighed in at 2.3 pounds, almost unimaginable the previous day when we’d gleaned so few. The glee lasted throughout the day, sending little shivers of excitement every time I recalled the moment I entered that vision. After divvying up our shares, Brian and I headed for home, enjoying a most pleasurable discussion along the way about how to prepare them. We fell upon the idea of crepes with asparagus, gruyere, caramelized red onions and the morels. I’ve had the good fortune (maybe all those four-leaf clovers) to have some staggeringly good meals in my life, but let me tell you. That dish, heaped as it was with the morels that I’d found ,was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever eaten.
Can’t wait for morel season next year!