A Passionate Quest
by Sara Ann Friedman
This book is just what it says: a celebration of wild mushrooms. Its author describes in easy, flowing prose how she gradually became more and more fascinated with wild mushrooms- searching for them, collecting them, studying them and eating them. She describes various hunts for mushrooms in all different seasons, across the country, alone, in small groups of friends or in large organized forays. I never thought about mushroom-lovers having conventions, but they do! Friedman attends as an amateur and passionate mushroom hunter, rubbing shoulders with college professors who specialize in mushrooms, and eager students constantly asking "what's this one?" People who just want to paint mushrooms, or photograph them. People who are interested in wild mushrooms as culinary art, others who are fascinated by the puzzle of identifying them- there are thousands of species, and apparently no two books or field guides agree on their taxonomy or nomenclature. And of course, people who are interested in their hallucinogenic properties. Celebrating the Wild Mushroom explores all aspects of the fungi- how it has been alternately feared, loathed or practically worshiped in times past. The mysteries of its growth, the puzzles of its properties. Did you know that some mushrooms taste like chicken, or fruit? That some smell like cholorine, or burnt rubber, or fish? From the accounts of a few people who tried to subsist on mushrooms alone for a period of days, Friedman learned that mushrooms have little nutritional value- yet their flavors and textures can be delectable. Personally I like mushrooms, but I'm not crazy about them. Even though she gives a little mini field guide (with recipes) in the back of the book, I'd never be bold enough to try and eat a fungus picked off my neighbor's lawn, or dug from the leaves under a tree. But this book is so intriguing, because mushrooms are curious and fantastic things- not plant, not animal, but an entity all their own.
The only other place I've read about mushrooms before was in The Omnivore's Dilemma, but it only gets a small section there. I read this book as part of the TBR Challenge.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 265 pages, 1986