a peek inside the fishbowl

04 Apr, 2014

My personal history with mushrooms. And a recipe.

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Recipes and Food

I had a sudden craving for mushroom soup and it couldn’t be from a can. So I made a version of this recipe today. It turned out pretty good; earthy and real, with a breath of woodland forest. If you like mushrooms I think you’ll like it too.

April 4 #dailylunches - mushroom soup with homemade croutons and goat cheese

True story.

My parents were born and raised in Eastern Europe, in a very different time and place from where we are today. They both spent many years with very little, under the thumb of a communist regime, and when you grow up like this you tend to approach life a little differently. I still struggle with the culture gap, and I certainly didn’t understand this when I was ten.

We were driving somewhere; lord knows where. My parents were probably dragging me to the McMichael gallery north of Toronto, which I hated. I’d walk around staring sulkily into space and/or throwing myself into those strategically placed leather benches that were intended for art lovers to sit and admire a particular piece for a long long long boring time. Or so I thought. (I actually love going to art galleries now. Go figure.)

We suddenly pulled over to the side, in the middle of Canadian Nowhere. Canadian Nowhere is different from Inner City Nowhere because the only sign of civilization – aside from our car – is a two lane highway cutting a path between heavy forest. Ahead of me, behind me, was a grey thread of highway that stretched as far as I could see. To either side was Forest, trees packed together so tightly I couldn’t make out anything beyond the first row of trunks. I KNEW what was happening, because we’d done it so many times before. We were stealing mushrooms, and I was mortified.

Cue the plaintive moan from the back seat of the silver Ford Grenada (that would be me). I was probably sprawled across the seat, or had been lying on the floor watching the telephone wires dip and swoosh as we drove. And I was loathe to participate in any criminal mushroom-related activities.

“Who’s land is this,” I asked, feeling very small and powerless, deeply afraid that we were going to get caught red-handed and face long jail sentences for fungi thievery. My parents didn’t do anything to assuage my fear. Their minds were already elsewhere, I could tell.

“It’s ok,” they said. “This is probably crown land anyway.” They laughed, which only made me feel stupid for worrying.

Grabbing plastic grocery bags out of the trunk, they started to cross the road. I had no choice but to follow them on their mission for mushrooms.

Within a few metres of that thin grey line we were swallowed by the darkness of the forest. Amid the shelter of the trees was a whole different world; cool and damp, the ground spongy under my feet. I had no idea what to look for, but they did. I started to get excited, just a little bit. The mushrooms were brown, the earthy brown of the forest in which they magically grew. They were brown like the dirt, brown like the dry pine needles and decaying leaf matter, brown like the bark of the trees. They were hard to spot, but I got better at it. It was like a game of hide and seek, and I was the seeker.

Before I knew it, those flimsy grocery bags were overflowing with meaty mushrooms and we were back in the car, continuing our journey. Later on some of those mushrooms would get fried with eggs, or add an earthy taste to stew, or dried for later use.

I stretched out on the back seat, my head touching the inside of the door, my feet propped up on the opposite window. Once again I found myself gazing out at the telephone wire and the sky beyond.

8 Responses to "My personal history with mushrooms. And a recipe."

1 | Lisa from Iroquois

April 4th, 2014 at 10:22 pm


In case you don’t know Continental Mushroom is fairly close, in Metcalfe. You can buy a shoebox size of white or brown mushrooms to have a serious feed of them. Last time I was there it was about $11.

2 | kjt

April 5th, 2014 at 2:04 am


Nice story, Andrea. What kind of mushrooms do you think they were?

3 | andrea tomkins

April 5th, 2014 at 8:32 am


I don’t know what kind they were!

4 | Lynn

April 5th, 2014 at 9:12 am


Such a lovely story and a great post, Andrea! I had no idea about your parents – sounds like there’s a ton of rich tales to tell there.

5 | andrea tomkins

April 5th, 2014 at 8:56 pm


Thank you Lynn! Sometimes it’s fun to jot down the childhood stuff, isn’t it?

6 | Javamom

April 5th, 2014 at 11:29 am


I love this story. Do you still go mushroom hunting?

7 | andrea tomkins

April 5th, 2014 at 7:56 pm


No, I don’t. I wouldn’t know which ones are safe to eat!

8 | Georgina

April 8th, 2014 at 9:16 am


My childhood memories was of my grandfather pulling dandelions from his backyard, and then we would have them as part of our dinner. By dandelions I mean, the edible kind you see in the grocery stores(like Farm Boy). Later in life, my MIL took me out to pick dandelions off of Greenbank road….long time to clean them, but they were delicious with lemon and EVOO.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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