Two weeks ago, a friend of our family gave us a bag of mushrooms. He has an old apple orchard, a prime spot for all things wild. Deer, mice, flowers of the spring and mushrooms. They were beautiful, big, black morels, the bag holding in their musty, earthy aroma.
As I poured them out onto the counter their scent and their velvety texture began a dance of many memories. Foremost was a mental picture of my father, Donald Lewis. An integral of his life each spring was mushroom hunting. His favorite spots were along Osborn Road. Of course, back then, the fields on either side of the road were pasture and woods. When I begged to go with him, he decided it was time to test my worthiness of the hunt. While wanting to protect me from slithering creatures and choosing the wrong fungus, he also wanted me to recognize who was master. So, at his insistence, I always walked behind him.
Of course the real reason for this was so that he could be the first to spy the morels. I accepted the arrangement because I wanted to be out mushrooming and if it meant I walked behind and feigned ignorance, so be it. I wanted to be with him and share in his springtime happiness.
After he grew too frail to be out in the woods, he reminded me each week to urge my husband to get out, hunt for those beloved mushrooms and “remember your old dad”. I can still hear him say that, as I fry some of those mushrooms.
Dad also had a favorite cherry tree. His weekly spring reports of buds growing, buds popping open and the pinkish white, fragrant blossoms came to be a cherished part of my visits. His favorite pie of course was cherry.
While he waited for the cherries to ripen, he loved strawberries. Rounded up quarts of the bright, crimson fruit made his eyes sparkle. Bringing him a quart or two from Fulton’s Farm was sure to garner me a big hug and smile. His favorite way to eat them was sprinkled with sugar and floating in half-n-half.
Asparagus was a welcome vegetable. Dad never talked much about vegetables. But he did look forward to a bunch or two of asparagus in the spring. Same way with a freshly baked strawberry-rhubarb pie. He knew how to cook and bake, how to choose a good ham, how to make pancakes with only flour and water. He loved tomatoes and half-runner beans.
Opening that bag of fresh mushrooms opened up a well of nostalgia, a bit of homesickness. Sometimes when those mushrooms are up and spring is deep into its days, I get a bittersweet, lost-like feeling. But then I remember what Dad would have said to me. “Just fry some mushrooms and go on. You can’t go back. Just go forward.”
And I get out the frying pan, the butter and the mushrooms. They are good. As good as any I’ve ever had. And I go on.
Here are a few of Dad’s favorite recipes.
One Egg Cake
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup shortening ( Crisco)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup milk
- 1 large egg
Baked Rice Pudding
- ½ gallon of milk (2 quarts)
- 1 cup rice
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Fried Mushrooms-Scrambled Eggs
- Half dozen morel mushrooms, cleaned
- 2-3 eggs
- 4 cups pitted tart cherries
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup flour
- Dash of salt
- 2 drops almond extract