"If you go down in the woods today" – an afternoon picking mushrooms in the Alsace


Needless to say, we didn’t touch this baby, which indeed corresponds to TracyK’s pithy description in my last post and will do nothing to allay her or Darce’s prejudices against mushrooms. I can almost see you two sitting on a sofa and saying “Mushrooms? The dirty bastards..” Much love to you two and this is for you..

It’s mushroom season in the Alsace and, like many other city-dwellers, we headed out to the woods yesterday to enjoy some country air and the last of the incredible sunshine which is still bathing the area in spite of the fact that Christmas is only nine weeks away (aaarrrrgghhh!)

You have to be very careful, though. Even touching something like the monster in the photo can cause serious problems. There are so many different kinds of fungus which proliferate under the dark ferns of the forest, shyly peeping out from under the dead leaves, or indeed standing tall and in your face like this one. And even putting a bad mushroom in the basket with the others means that you have to to throw the whole lot away. We went with a friend who is a part-time wild man of the woods and can read the forest and all its signs. He can look at a vague pock mark in the mud and say “Hum, a wild boar was eating chestnut kernels here”. “How on earth can you tell that?” I asked him on several occasions. But he could always give a plausible explanation for his deductions. I couldn’t contradict him anyway…

Yesterdays’ mission was finding, in descending order, girolles (the queen of mushrooms) and cêpes (which I hate to use when cooking as they are slimy and glutinous but brilliant when dried). Our friend strode on ahead, poking through the dried leaves and very unselfishly rooting out the small, light beige heads of the pieds de mouton mushrooms which, sadly, were the only kind of edible fungus we came up with yesterday. After four hours’ walk we came home with enough to make sauce for two lamb chops. Not such a good haul. But it was a magnificent day in the forest.

Thankfully, we didn’t come across these two colourful creatures. Instead of doing an ‘afternoon’ list (I put all my suggestions on the Mother Ship anyway…), I thought I’d share my current musical obsession with you all. The album’s called The Trials of Van Occupanther by Midlake. It was, again, a ‘turn right at the traffic lights and go once more round the block’ moment when I heard the first track – Roscoe - on FIP radio. I can only describe them as “Fleetwood Mac-meets-The-Alan-Parsons-Project-meets-Radiohead”, although they describe their influences as being Jethro Tull (gulp). Wikipedia tells me they were formed in 1999 in Denton, Texas. This album was released in 2006 and it seems there’ll be a new one this year “tentatively entitled” The Courage of Others. Here’s their website.

No particular question this week, but do let me know what you think of Midlake. The first track, Roscoe, blew me away and is representative of the whole album. Enjoy….



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30 thoughts on “"If you go down in the woods today" – an afternoon picking mushrooms in the Alsace

  1. Mornin’ fp. ToffeeGirl (thanks to her German mum) has always been a big fan of mushroom hunting. Would we be right in idetifying your girolles with what the German’s call Pfifferlinge?Listening to Midlake now – thoughts later…

  2. Oh I’m betting large sums of money that you’ll at least like Roscoe. If you click on the album title in bold in my wee post that’ll take you to the whole album on deezer. Yes indeedy. Girolles = Pfifferlinge. I’ll pop over to Germany and buy some, seen as how we didn’t actually find any… Hard to get in my local French supermarket because they disappear as soon as they’re put on the shelves.

  3. FP- I like mushrooms, Midlake is pleasant but got distracted by wee Munday and Star Wars in the middle, then I set fire to the frying pan, so will try again later!!

  4. You win sums of money! Midlake are now in my iTunes library – and I even paid for the privilege.A real seventies feel to them – certainly a touch of the Fleetwood Mac. I can’t really hear any Jethro Tull or Radiohead influences but there’s a definite hint of Grandaddy about them. Thanks for another new discovery, fp.

  5. @ Alimunday: oh God. Trying so hard not to say “may the force be with you”. And failing miserably. Hope there was no major structural damage there….—@ToffeeB: Kerching! I would have been most surprised. Good, ain’t they? If you go on http://www.deezer.com and search under artist – Midlake – then you can hear their other stuff as well. All good… I think the Radiohead is the long drawn out notes in the vocal lines. There’s a bit of a Thom Yorke vibe going on there…But no Jethro Tull that I can make out – thankfully.

  6. @ frogprincess: SORRY #1 – Thanks for the sidetrack, fp, but quite frankly I'd rather have the "dried-shit-ache" than watch Catherine Tate !!! SORRY #2 – And if you weren't around that particular week, Midlake's Roscoe is zedded over on RR and from memory kicked up quite a fuss that week from people it was new to – including Gordon, if my memory has survived the post Chelski-LFC celebrations. Me? Fairly underwhelmed by a fileshare listen not long after release and haven't heard anything that has tempted me back to it since. Ah well, you can't win 'em all . . . as I'd love to say to Messrs Scolari & Ferguson !!

  7. Darce – no sweat. I can totally live with you not liking Catherine Tate or Midlake. Now butterscotch Angel Delight… that might be another affair…..

  8. I’m getting slight touches of CSN too. As with the others, no discernible Tull. I think that comes from their songwriter professing a liking for Aqualung or something in one of the monthly mags.I have always been extremely envious of fungophiles, but no matter how many books I arm myself with, in the field I really don’t feel confident that I’ve picked something edible. Round here (they say) that the best mushies have been culled by ‘them Polish refugees’. They want our jobs and our edible fungi. Sigh.

  9. BTW this wasn’t my first experience of Midlake. I have ‘Head Home’ on a compilation I made recently. Probably got this from one of the ‘free’ CDs from Word/Uncut magazine. It’s very similar and I must confess my jury is still out.Apologies- didn’t read your post properly. They say they are influenced by Tull. I think that’s the whole bucolic ‘Songs From The Wood’ vibe rather than them sounding like a be-codpieced gangly salmon farmer playing the flute on one leg. Tull themselves (for I have dug up the article) cite their influences as being, among others, Monty Python. That explains it then. I bet Ian Anderson knows his mushies from his toadies.

  10. FP – I think I detected something Radiohead-ish – can’t get above ‘pleasant’ though.No structural damage thanks – the exhaust pipe fell off my car on Saturday but I don’t think that was related. You’ve inspired me to get some mushrooms for my tea but I shall fry them with care.

  11. If you find some of the hallucinogenic variety, do not consume them:a) Before economics classb) If going on a funfair rideTrust me on this.

  12. @ Proudfoot – very amused that your Polish population is snaffling the mushies from the woods. Their cuisine makes great use of many types. Love your sideswipe at Jethro Tull. Tee Hee.—à Alimunday: they come in threes so for God’s sake break a glass now and get it over with…—@ Shoey – spill the beans. You’re speaking from personal experience there….

  13. I certainly did 'Spill the beans & the rest of the chilli con carne and scrumpy down on the upturned faces of onlookers when the umbrella ride was thrown into reverse gear.

  14. Probably not advisable as we have some music lovers amongst us. Do have a cassette somewhere, not sure if that “tune” is on it, or if all the little magnetic particles have fallen off, or if I have a way to digitize it. It might be easier to reform the band.

  15. Mmm, yes, I once indulged in some, er, ‘non-supermarket’ mushrooms, which my friend had harvested in a nearby field (I was 17 at the time OK!). I put it next to my caving experience – interesting but buggered if I’m going to do that again. It was that ‘getting lost halfway up the stairs’ thing that really put me off.Anyway, more importantly, as Darceysdad said upthread, I heard Roscoe by Midlake after I downloaded it when it was listed in the ‘Boys Names’ blog. I was so totally blown away by it that I went and bought the album. Admittedly it is the best track on said album but I’d still say that overall I agree with fp.

  16. How far would we get with the theme ‘songs about being sick and vomiting’?BTW Never, ever take mushrooms and go to a pub on the outskirts of Niddrie (you don’t really want to know)full of freemasons/ex-policemen and which has a very bright, garish swirly carpet. My friend noticed one elderly gent was wearing spiked bowling shoes (it was that sort of pub) and asked if he could borrow them to get to the bar.

  17. @proudfoot – I had a similar experience in a pub in Bradford Leigh circa 1979, where I had to be seated in a dark corner with a glass of orange juice and a straw. Never again!

  18. My one and only experimentation with mushrooms had an even more stupid venue than that: consumed in the graveyard they were growing in! (Next door to my school, May1366, hint, hint.) Fortunately for me I only had enough to feel a little discombobulated, but enough that I can understand the swirly carpet thing, which reminds me … … Steenbeck, if we buy that cafe, don’t ever let me get drunk enough to try to play backgammon on that wall !!!

  19. There used to be a cafe in Bristol (down behind the Council House, near The Pineapple pub)called The Magic Mushroom Cafe – we could resurrect it – I tried to phone a friend there once, and Directory Enquiries refused to believe that it really existed …

  20. That café looks fantastic Steenbeck. Colourful walls AND they can do a banana split. The virtual opening of the first RG70SB is only days away….

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