On Food

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May 15, 2016
UK/Middle East
Real Food

I never really liked mushrooms. Nasty slimy things, at least they were when vomited up as a child.

Childhood memories.

I was living in a cabin in a clearing in the forest. A small pond right in front.
It was not Walden’s pond. Back then I had never heard of Thoreau. But the living was good. Easy. I was young, had a girl with me and no cares.

There was short grass around the pond and the little “A” frame cabin in which we lived in the clearing.

Autumn announced its arrival with that sweet English smell of decaying leaves that had fallen whilst your attention was elsewhere. The reassuring affirmation of the life and death continuum. Death, decay and rebirth

The mushrooms appeared, as they do, overnight. The next day they had turned to ink.

“What sort of mushroom are they?” I wondered.

“Ink-caps” I discovered with the help of Roger Phillips Seminal work.

Cooking wild foods gathered from the forest became my sine qua non.

Beech mast, Horse Chestnuts, Nettles, Acorns roasted for coffee and of course mushrooms. Ink-caps stewed in milk and some potatoes from the landlord farmer who tolerated my peripatetic existence in his cabin and washed down with locally brewed ale.
A triumph of contentment over diet(Warning. Some say ink-caps and alcohol are a bad mix – but not my experience)

Holistic and tasty

Near where I have on and off lived for the last 15 years or so is a wonderful wood. Mainly Beech, big old trees that are well established. A well managed wood. An understory of bramble and deep leaf litter. Fallen branches left to rot and add to the continuum. “Fallen wood must not be taken for firewood” says the sign.

A perfect formula for Ceps. The “Penny Bun” as it is known in English though I doubt a bun or anything else for that matter has been purchasable for a penny for many a year.

The Penny Bun for me is the King of all mushrooms. Others can better describe its taste than I but be assured this mushroom when added to any dish save rhubarb crumble and custard will enable any tyro cook to become a “Maestro” with one dish. Once seen on the woodland floor it is easily remembered so there is no danger of misidentifying and eating something deadly. (Keep its location secret. Penny Buns do not grow alone and others are looking for them!)

Penny Buns when sliced can be dried and stored easily for later use.. In stews, omelettes or best of all slowly fried with onions then slipped between a the fillet and the pastry in a Beef Wellington (with locally reared beef), mmmmh,

With a carefully carried egg or two, an onion and a skillet the mushroom hunter can create a real al-fresco “foresters feast” (don’t forget the matches) with Penny Buns. Add some Amethyst Deceivers for some colour!

Last year when out with my gun I spotted a “Chicken of the Woods”(Laetiporus Sulphurius) on the trunk of a long dead Oak. I did not need any gun to harvest this particular bird.

“Chicken of the woods” the fruiting body of a fungi, which like all fungi is out of sight until it exposes itself to propagate. The colloquially known chicken of the woods, if found before it has dried out in the air is a real treat for the hunter of fungi. It was the first I had ever seen and was early enough in its appearance (fresh enough) to harvest…I Sliced some (leaving some to mature and thus shed spores) off with my pen-knife careful not to damage the delicate fibres of the living fungi beneath the Oak-bark

Gently fried with some sliced onions and scrambled eggs it was a memorable meal.

Another meal I can still taste was pigeon breast with Penny Bun . Nothing particularly interesting about a culled pigeon of course. It is more about the process.

(There are nearly five and a half million breeding pairs of pigeon in the UK according to the RSPB (yes 5,500,000) and the loss of revenue to farmer through this hoard of beaks is also in the £ millions. Never was a more sustainable and justifiable wild and eco-friendly meat resource more available)

The pigeon I had shot not 300 yards from my back door, with mashed potatoes and peas from my neighbour a mere 500 yards away, Ceps I gathered myself in the beech wood a mile and Rosemary from outside my back-door. Good exercise too, with only the Juniper jelly coming from a jar (we can’t all live in Scotland)

In these days of instant gratification where any food we want is available on demand throughout the year, Strawberries in winter, Asparagus in February, “fresh” (farmed and ecologically unsound) Salmon and Green Lipped Mussels available whenever along with Kumquat (whatever that is) and Danish Bacon available word-wide anytime. With all the damage the production and transportation this entails wherever one is, isn’t it about time we looked a little closer to home if at all possible?

There is nothing more holistic than getting your own food.

Gardeners know this. Green peas and potatoes fresh from the garden. Maybe with some sweet-peas to decorate the table, (not edible but not imported from Holland either and sure look good.) If you get the chance to eat this stuff you will never want the offerings from the supermarket ever again. After all it is only a couple of generations ago when that is how we (UK) all lived. Funny thing.

Of course in the overpopulated world in which we live it is rare that we can sustain ourselves by hunting, gathering, catching fish and gardening.

We should at least try????

The tastiest meal you will ever eat is one you have had the intellectual honesty to have either caught, gathered, grown, or hunted and cooked for yourself.

Or at least tried surely?


If you don’t have it already, like everything, Roger Phillip’s book is available on-line..


If gathering fungi, please ensure 110% correct identification.This cannot be stressed enough. I recommend Phillips’ work for this as the photographs are the best I have seen in any book on the topic.

If in doubt, try giving your find to neighbours who admire your expertise. If they are still alive a couple of days later you are probably good to go…

OK . Only joking. Seriously- if in doubt leave alone.

Also never “Pick” a wild mushroom. Always cut it off at the base of the Stipe (mushroom-speak for stalk). “Picking” mushrooms/fungi as in pulling them from the ground/tree etc damages the mycelium which is the main part of the organism. The bit we see is just the fruiting part.

If concerned about carrying a knife in the UK you should be fine as you have a “good reason” if in doubt consult google etc
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Reactions: Toddy


Jan 21, 2005
S. Lanarkshire
Yep, that says it :D

A little surprised about the amethyst deceiver though. Pretty colour, but not an awful lot of taste, and the stems were decidedly stringy.


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