Barcelona Skyline

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Mushroom hunting

In autumn, at the break of dawn all over the Catalan countryside you can see warmly dressed Catalans from all social classes with their straw baskets and high boots, poking around under trees with their walking sticks, their sharp knives on the alert. These are the “caçadors de bolets” (the wild mushroom hunters) and autumn is their season.

Perhaps nowhere in the world are people so crazy about the wild mushroom as here in Catalunya. The best places for finding the bolets are jealously passed from father to son. A dear friend might lavish his wild mushrooms on you year after year. But he will never tell you the secret of their origin.

Quite a cult of witchcraft, primitive religion, and family murder surrounds these bolets. They have been consumed to facilitate communication with the gods and were eaten to celebrate the return of pre-historic migratory animals. Some deadly spores were discretely stirred into a delicate dish and fed to the unfortunate Emperor Claudius by his wife Agripina. Or so they say.

Traditional dishes (the non-poisonous kind) are served everywhere at this time of year. The revellon is grilled up with parsley, olive oil, and garlic; the rosignol is eaten raw or in salads; the fredolics is excellent in soups; the rabassola is worth a fortune; and so on and so forth. There are hundreds of edible varieties and you can find dozens of them around the corner from the hotel at the central market.

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