Yesterday afternoon, I was going to borrow my mentor’s bike to go for a ride while the family was out for a birthday party, but when I tried it out in the front yard, it was too big for me. I put it back into the house foyer and closed the front door. I had my backpack with me so I decided to walk to the supermarket for dinner ingredients. I walked to the gate and tried to open it…locked. I didn’t know I needed my keys to get out… so I searched in my pockets, not there. In my bag, not there. I was locked both outside and inside the front yard with nobody home to let me in. I can only make phone calls when I have wifi, and there was none out there. SO, I jumped the fence to go to the supermarket, jumped back in later IN THE RAIN to get in, and waited in the yard til they got home.
That was an interesting experience. I need a phone.
Now, we interrupt your backlog of blog posts for breaking news…
I went MUSHROOMING today!
This is quite a popular pastime this part of year, because in group of villages where I am living, there are many forests that grow a variety of our friend the fungi (hřib, sounds like hrrip, but is houba in Bohemia).
My mentor drove her kids, their grandfather (who’s an expert mushroomer), and me to the edge of the forest and parked. Imagine a high, grassy, two-track lane winding slowly into a hilly, deciduous forest. Everywhere there are oaks and a scattering of pines. Farther on, it will turn into a conifer forest where some different varieties can be found. Some mushrooms are muddy cups of rainwater. Some are still good quality, but you have to be smart to see them.
Their grandpa, with his windbreaker and backpack, led us contemplatively upwards, pointing out the ones we were looking for. First I hung back with my mentor to pick babka: easy to find, common mushrooms.
As time went on, I could feel my eyes getting sharper. We were finding…
MODRÁK (this changes color when you cut it. video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHYeZWFl5sw&feature=youtu.be)
and if we were very, very lucky, the star of mushrooms: PRAVÁK (“the right one”)
Others were a very perfect-looking but terribly bitter hořčak (horse-chahk), holubinka- which were red and poisonous-looking but not actually poisonous, and mochomurka…toadstools, like in Mario. And very poisonous.
Also, I understood my first sentence in Czech!: “Máš tam bedla?” Do you have bedla over there?
My spoils (there were three more baskets):
What I’m finding amazing here is that, at least in villages, Czechs are quite connected to the land through their food. Whether it’s mushrooming, growing apple or walnut trees in the front yard, making jams or chutneys or homemade liquors (slivovitzer with ginger, honey, and lemon), many things we eat are things we find around our homes. Nobody understands my amazement about this, coming from New York!
They taught me how to prep the mushrooms, including cutting and boiling them to be frozen or dried (there are some walnuts we found on the ground next to the knife):
For dinner, we had bedla schnitzel. Weirdly, it tastes like fish and was delicious!
Tomorrow is my first day at Gymnazium Tišnov and I’ll be taking a mushroom schnitzel sandwich for lunch. 😉