Concerning Mushromes and Tadstoles

Concerning "Mushromes and Tadstoles"

Recipes 88

And now for that our fine mouthed and daintie wantons who set such store by their tooth; take so great delight to dress this only dish with their own hands, that they may feed thereon in conceit and cogitation all the while they be handling and preparing the same, furnished in this their businesse with their fine knives and razors of amber and other vessels of silver about them.

"I for my part also am content to frame and accomodate myself to their humourous fancie and will shew unto them in generall certaine observations and rules how to order and use them that they may be eaten with securitie."

Plinius Secundus

Plinius Secundus 89

The earnest plea of Dr. Badham for this neglected - rather, I may say, spurned - spontaneous harvest of fungi is well worth emphasizing in our pages; affording, as it does, a most suggestive commentary on the universal popular ignorance, so far as America is concerned, of the economic value of this perennial offering of Nature, which abounds in such luxuriance throughout our continent.

"I have this autumn myself," he writes, "witnessed whole hundred-weights of rich, wholesome diet rotting under trees; woods teeming with food, and not one hand to gather it; and this, perhaps, in the midst of a potato-blight, poverty, and all manner of privations, and public prayers against imminent famine.

"I have, indeed, grieved, when I have reflected on the straitened condition of the lower classes this year, to see pounds innumerable of extempore beefsteaks growing on our oaks in the shape of Fistulina hepat-ica; Agaricus fusipes, to pickle, in clusters under them; Puff-balls, which some of our friends have not inaptly compared to sweetbreads for delicacy of their unassisted flavor; Hydna, as good as oysters, which they somewhat resemble in taste; Agaricus deliciosus, reminding us of tender lamb kidneys; the beautiful yellow Chantarelle, that kalon kaigothon of diet, growing by the bushel, and no basket but our own to pick up a few specimens on our way; the sweet, nutty-flavored Boletus, in vain calling himself 'edulis' where there was none to believe him; the dainty Orcella; the Agaricus heterophyllus, which tastes like a crawfish when grilled; the Agaricus ruber, and Agaricus virescens, to cook in any way and equally good in all - these are the most conspicuous of the trotivailles."

The Spurned Harvest

His remarks applied to Great Britain, and reflected a popular disdain of fungi, which presented a marked contrast to the appreciation of the mushroom of the Continent, where the fungus had become the much-sought bonne bouche of the epicure, and the welcome reliance of the peasant poor, to whom it afforded a perfect substitute for the desideratum of animal food commonly denied them by their circumstances.

This plea of Dr. Badham's is even more pointedly pertinent to the America of the present than it was for his own country at the time; for while, in Great Britain, the mycophagist epicure was even then occasionally to be met with, in America to-day this particular gastronomic specialist is locally conspicuous, or rather notorious, from his very rarity, being popularly considered as a sort of dangerous crank, who should be conservatively muzzled by the authorities, for the safety of himself as well as the public.