A mysterious message arrived via Facebook the other day. It stated that I was to receive a package on the plane later that day. I was about to leave on a hunting trip and had just put a caribou neck in the oven for a 10-hour stint. Oh well, wait for the package, I thought. Then I get another message saying the package contains mushrooms from my brother. Mushrooms?
Okay, I’ll wait for them. I know that when my brother sends me things, it’s a bit like a blue moon occurring on Christmas Day. However, anxious to head out on the land, I ready myself for the hunt and send someone else to the airport to find my mysterious mushrooms.
When they return, I see my package is loosely packed with butcher’s wrap. I pull out a humungous mushroom. A big “Waaaa!” resounds around the room… I think this would go well with my neck-bone meat. I put them aside, and take off north.
The hunt was quiet, lots of wind and nothing flying around, so my thoughts were on the mushrooms. I recognized those mushrooms from somewhere… then I remembered.
My close buddy and I were out partridge hunting in a jack-pine forest on a late fall day. The weather was perfect and a large partridge sat on the very top of the tree. We had been at it for about two hours, shooting partridge with the light .22 calibre Browning I liked to use on these occasions. It was a beautiful early evening, the white caribou moss and towering jack pine – a great place to live if you were an animal. Then we came to a clearing with a lone tree standing in the middle.
The tree looked a little different, much thicker and whiter than the others. We walked up closer to check it out. Then we both exclaimed, “Look at the mushrooms!”
The tree was adorned with mushrooms. Every branch held hundreds of mushrooms, neatly tucked in almost every twig. We laughed and called it a Christmas tree. Squirrels had used the tree as a drying centre, to preserve the mushrooms for the long winter ahead. We took down a mushroom to look at. It was similar to the mushroom I had held in my kitchen. Ahh, a squirrel’s choice in mushrooms!
Later, when the sun rapidly dropped, I headed home to my neck bone. It was succulently roasted so I rested the meat a bit and prepared the frying pan for some mushrooms. A nice slab of butter, salt and flaky black pepper sat sizzling as I laid down the large mushroom steaks. First sweet, then the familiar smoky smell of mushrooms filled my kitchen. I like my mushrooms fried well, like a French fry. This sturdy mushroom didn’t welt in the heat of the pan.
Finally, the pairing of the roast caribou with mushroom steak hit my taste buds. The meat and mushroom disappear quickly as my mouth raved. I message my brother and ask him what they were called.
They were Matsutake mushrooms. Now I know why the Japanese treat this super tasty mushroom as the food of a demi-god. It is more of a gift from the gods to the squirrels, I think.