Mushroom hunting: A Czech National Pastime

I had the great fortune this past weekend to be invited to go mushroom-hunting. My colleague Monika invited me to her family cabin on Saturday. You can actually get there by tram, end of the line.  I was honored and touched by her family’s welcome of me.  Her mother, Karín, sister Símona, and grandparents, were incredibly kind and generous with me. I loved that her grandfather kept speaking to me in Czech and I kept saying, “nerozumím” I don’t understand, until finally he told Monika that he was speaking really slowly, so it seemed I should be able to understand. What an idiot I must have seemed!

This is the end of the mushroom season so not a lot left, but it we still managed to get quite a few after a couple hours wandering through the beautiful autumn forest in 70 degree F temps. I found quite a few mushrooms that generated the response of “No!” or “poisnonous!” or “we don’t eat that!” but I did eventually find a couple of the edible sort.  Ironically the cute orange toadstool featured in children’s story is not edible, and depending on who you’re talking to, could be poisonous as well.

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I was sent home with crazy amounts of fresh mushrooms, of several varieties that no one could translate into English, plus a Nescafe jar packed tightly with dried ‘shrooms.  Evidently the hallucinogenic varieties can be found as well, but hey I’m way too old for that and it wasn’t on the hunting agenda. It could not have been a more beautiful day.  We passed by a closed-off cave that Monika and her sister used to explore as kids as well.

 

Karín kept the food and drinks coming all day. She is a remarkable cook – I was very spoiled. Shortly after arriving, there was first a beautiful tray of aperol with fresh lemon slices and naturally a round of “na zdraví” (“cheers”).

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This was followed by a sweet nut layered cake, coffee, tee, juice, then later a lovely hot lunch that Karín thoughtfully made a vegetarian version for me. Then another round of aperols with the requisite na zdraví. Followed by homemade apple strudel that was amazing with more tea, coffee and another round of aperol, because, well why not?

I learned that Karín does agility training with her shelties and one of them, Tobi, recently came in 4th in the WORLD. I got to first see the video of the winning event and then saw in person this amazing dog. Tobi was so excited and thrilled and full of energy to run this course.  This is a dog who is doing something he loves and you can tell.

 

It is a serious workout for Karín as well because she must run alongside Tobi throughout the whole course.

 

Perhaps the best part of the evening was when we went to the restaurant at the end of the road. Everyone from the cabins along the road frequent it and they all know each other. Monika’s grandfather reminded me so much of my father-in-law, Dick, who has his own cabin and restaurant that he frequents. Both men arrive and there are tables of other senior men (being polite here) who call them over, hassle and joke and nudge each other before settling back into their families.

 

A round of beers happened. Then another.  Then I went to the restroom and came back to find everyone had a shot glass of some dark liquid, then another round of beers.  I missed my first tram home. Then missed my second. Then my third. Then I was invited to stay the night. Then I was encouraged. Then I was urged. Then I finally made my tram.  Karín sent me home with a huge paper bag of mushrooms that I hope I do right by, plus a plastic tub of tubers in oil and herbs and instructions how to broil them for dinner when I got home.  I got home after 10pm, but what a fantastic day it was.

 

 

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