"Nature alone is antique and the oldest art a mushroom."
My parents just returned from the Haida Guaii, otherwise known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, where they were picking wild mushrooms for mad cash. The Charlottes are located 300 km of the northwest coast of British Columbia and are a day’s trip from my parents place in New Hazelton. Sometimes called the Galapagos of the North, I have fond memories of that wild, lush place: BC’s own little tropics, it seemed to me.
My parent’s had originally planned a four-day bike trip around the islands to relax and see the sights, but ended up hooking up with some mushroom-picking cronies, signing their souls over to the mushroom mafia, and staying three weeks for the remainder the chanterelle season. (more on the mafia later, it’s not a joke. I have to get the full story from my dad). They loved their time roaming the deep rainforest and picking chanterelles. My mum’s only complaint was:
“Some guys from Quebec pitched their tent right in front of the outhouse that doesn’t have a door!”
I know these little chanterelle beauties (called giroles in French) from my three years at Toque! where I probably cooked enough of them to crust the entire Island of Montreal in a nice duxelles. We received more than just the one mushroom variety from the QC’s, there were morels, black trumpets and the infamous pine, too.
The Montreal mushroom scene is pretty weird. It is mostly controlled by one family of Eastern European decent (don’t know where for sure) who are all in competition with each other.
The guy I dealt with at Toque was called Serge, an elderly, short, stocky fellow who shuffled in with a basket over his arm, usually while we were in the middle of service. He would lean on the counter and wait for a lull, meanwhile checking out the girls with a gleam in his eyes. He was self-reputed to have, ahem, ‘done it’ with his wife 37 times in one night, and this seemed to be an undisputable fact that simply everyone knew about on the cooking scene. While he waited, usually one of the guys on the line would holler out,
“Trente-sept, eh Serge?”
to which he would straighten up, shake a finger at the cook and say,
With my parents having picked them, and I having served them, it seems like we have had a mushroom ‘full circle’ moment, as Oprah would say. Ok, maybe we should reserve that term for something a little more monumental, but I though it was pretty cool.