How I Found Chanterelles
Rain splattered against ice-cold windows, and fat, foggy, clouds hung low. I was in my dad’s twenty-one-year- old Honda Accord, zooming along the highway. It was four-thirty, and I had just gotten out of the two-hour Chinese School that I attend every Sunday.
My dad, sister Mia, and I were on our way to a place in the middle of nowhere to find… mushrooms. Chanterelles, to be exact. My mom would’ve come, except she was at work.
I sighed. My little sister’s chattering did not sound good with Madonna’s remix that was quietly coming out of the ancient speakers. Mia Widrow was six years old, and if you (like most of my friends) think she’s cute and polite, I have two things to say to you. One: Mia isn’t really cute and polite (well, at least with me), and two: looks can be deceiving.
We soon pulled into a small trailhead and parked our car. Last time we had come to this place we had found one and a half pounds of chanterelles. We hoped for better luck this time. An orange gate blocked the path, and tall fir trees crowded around the trail. The bones of a dead deer lay to the left of us, and to the right a heap of trash.
“This is it,” my dad announced loudly.
Soon an elderly couple came into our view. Their faces were tired but happy, and they were carrying baskets of chanterelles. Wow! I thought. It looked like there were maybe fifteen pounds of those mushrooms. My dad chatted with the couple for a few minutes, but I wasn’t paying attention. If we could find that many chanterelles, gosh, I could only imagine how happy I would be.
Soon the couple departed, and we trudged farther down the gravel road. We soon went off the path to try and find some chanterelles, but we had no luck. There were only a few russulas and some old brown mushrooms. Our next try was no better. We tramped through dense undergrowth of fern and salal and still found no chanterelles. My sister kept chattering and chattering, and I got more and more annoyed. I was freezing, drenched, and bored. We had slightly better luck on the third try, and we found a few chanterelles, but not that much.
Soon we came to a bend in the road, and a huge shadow stretched out in front of us like a giant, kneeling on a prayer rug. I looked up and saw a six-by-four-foot half-rotten log. It was the perfect place for chanterelles. My dad, sister, and I ran in ten paces, and then we saw them. The forest floor covered with them. Curved tops, fluted gills, colors a mix of butter yellow and the orange color of Creamsicles.
I rushed in and picked a few, then held them like they were a bouquet of yellow flowers. They smelled like apricots, how chanterelles were supposed to smell, and they grew in pine needles, surrounded by ferns, where chanterelles were supposed to grow. They were perfect.
I picked and picked, all the while shouting “OMIGOSH! OMIGOSH! There are sooooooo many!” and “Can you get me another bag, this one’s full!”
Never in my life had I seen so many mushrooms, not even in Safeway where they sell those brown ones that you see on your pizza. Never had I been so excited about seeing that new and unfamiliar orange-yellow color that isn’t very striking until you see it in a dim, dark forest. Hey, you might say I’m exaggerating, but just try experiencing finding rare mushrooms yourself. It’s more addicting than eating eighty-five-percent dark chocolate. Maybe.
Soon we all tramped back into the car, and I was grinning from ear to ear. True, the day was cold and wet, and the forest was dark and dreary, but none of that mattered because I had found chanterelles.
Later that night, we came home and surprised my mom. We only showed her a small bag with about eight chanterelles in it, and even with that, she was delighted. All of a sudden, my dad said he had “left his hat” in the car, so he went out and came back with twenty pounds of chanterelles. My mom’s mouth dropped open in a perfect O, and for a few precious moments, she was completely speechless.
For dinner we ate chanterelles in pasta, smothered in garlic and butter. Yum.
There are a lot of things I remember about our mushroom hunt. The anticipation while I rode on the winding highway, the frustration I had felt when my whole body was soaked and we had not found any chanterelles, the amazement when I finally found those rare, prized mushrooms, and the contentment as I ate them in pasta that my mom had carefully made. But my very favorite part was walking back on that rocky trail and thinking that in that very small fraction of my life, chanterelles were all that mattered.