Finer Life

Part of an application I just submitted to be a food writer. Thought I’d share it. Hope I get the job!

The morning sun shines through the mist as I drive into Duncan, filling the air with a golden glow. I’m on my way to pick grapes, the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. I’m nervous, but excited too. New to BC, I am excited about the new opportunities I’m finding here, opportunities that give me a new appreciation for everyday things, especially food.
Grapes are beautiful on the vine, I now know. The vibrant, gravid purple gems hanging from the vines satisfy the eye and my taste buds as I grab an illicit sample.

Pinot gris has a grey cast to it. At first glance it looks unripe, but is ripe.

Pinot gris has a grey cast to it. At first glance it looks unripe, but is ripe.

My new experiences aren’t just limited to grapes. My boyfriend came home with 80 pounds of chanterelles the other day, thick frilly golden things covered in dirt and soaking wet from the heavy rain.
We dried them for a day and then took them to a buyer, a sweet old lady who looks like a gypsy and whose garage has been turned into a mushroom-lover’s heaven.

These are winter chanterelles. We didn't pick them, but they apparently fetch a good price.

These are winter chanterelles. We didn’t pick them, but they apparently fetch a good price.

Thick red lobsters, heavy white pines, spongy-frilly cauliflower…bins and bins and bins of yellow chanterelles, all guarded by an ancient German Shepard, who watches with a protective eye while his mistress inspects, weighs and collects the mushrooms we’ve brought her. At first she is brusque, short, but then as she sees the quality of the mushrooms she warms and conversation flows more smoothly. She offers pointers to us about how buyers like the pickers to present their mushrooms, as well as some tidbits about a few different types of mushrooms that bring in big bucks. We go home brimming with information and just enough money to whet our appetites. The white chanterelles we keep for ourselves. They aren’t selling this year.

I clean them off with an air compressor. It blows off the dirt without damaging the mushrooms, if I’m careful, and it prevents the porous fungi from soaking up any more water. After an internet search and a few recipes, I settle on good old mushroom soup. I wanted to do mushroom burgers or mushroom loaf, but we’re out of eggs, so soup it is.

Sounds boring but the recipe is a good one, so I use it as a guide, adding other spices and doubling the measurements to match my amount of mushrooms. I decide to add sage because I don’t cook with it enough and because after a quick taste test, I know the soup needs something else.

I dump some in, not measuring, and taste again. Way too much. Panic. I’m out of mushrooms and can’t add more broth or it’ll be too runny. I go back to the recipe and it calls for cream and sherry. I decide to use coconut milk. We got a case of it on sale and it makes a great cream replacement. I throw in the coconut milk and douse it all with sherry, add more thyme, throw in some garlic and some salt, then put it in the blender to smooth it out.

Viola. The taste test is rewarding and the bewildering pile of mushrooms is gone. It makes four jars of soup that will keep as long as my boyfriend’s hunger will allow.

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