Monday, August 30, 2010

A Pig Ear by any other name . . .


is just as delicious. (the pig ear mushroom is the brown one just to the left of the chantarelle)
A couple of Sundays ago at the New Amsterdam Market I was killing time before the market opened and came upon this couple. . .

Les Hook and Nova Kim

setting up a little stand "Wild Gourmet Foods" to sell amazing wild mushrooms. So I asked if they were the ones who had foraged the mushrooms.
"No," was the short response, "we're 'wild crafters', NOT foragers." and that was that, not another word.
Never one to offend, I sheepishly inquired as to any negative connotation there might be for the word forager. If there was one, I'd never heard it before. I could tell immediately that I had spurred a prepared, but vehement, response that had been reiterated to those before me unfortunate enough to choose the word forager. So I braced myself to learn something new.
It deals with the origin of the word forager. From the German word for fodder: feed for livestock (or a cannon if you're into that sort of thing). Apparently a forager would have been someone who collected food for livestock for what little money it paid.
Moreover, a foragers M.O. would be to ravage the land where they searched for food. Rendering the practice of foraging unsustainable, because if everyone did it the wilderness would be destroyed.
A "wild crafter" works with the land, taking what she can and leaving it a better than they found it. While I'm not entirely sure I subscribe to placing such strong meaning behind words, I really like what they're getting at.
Also they're working hard to set right something the "the man" clearly doesn't understand. The government wants for all mushroom . . . . errrr . . .. hunters to be certified by, you guessed it, the government. But this doesn't make much sense since they all work on such a small scale and could not afford federal and/or state certification. Their proposed solution is similar to that used with shell fish, which is a sheet of paper stating who found the mushroom, when and where. So if anyone ever was to get sick, it would be traceable. I think it sounds like a pretty brilliant solution.

For me the bottom line is to keep all that they are selling in the market because the quality of the product is exceptional and buying supports people trying to make the world a better place, and for the record, I'll be a little more conscious of using the word "forager" from now on.

Here are some of their amazing mushrooms:

a huge Chicken of the woods

an even bigger chicken of the woods (a salmon variety I'm told)

a Scented Choral smells amazing.

and some lobster mushrooms.

5 comments:

  1. Fantastic! Thanks Josh.

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  2. While I too can appreciate the goal, I tire of people with attitudes. It would be just as easy to educate someone with a jovial smile and chuckle followed by the real definition of forager as it is to treat someone contemptuously. And the bonus is they would get their message out to more people. It's just a word and I can't think of anyone who would use it as an insult against another. Just my $.02.

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  3. I have actually eaten real pig's ears -- while on holiday in Lithuania, where fried pig's ear is considered a great delicacy! They are served as an hors d'oeuvre, with chilled beer. Nasty! Gristly cartilage with nothing worth eating attached to it...

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  4. Here in St. Louis, Missouri, pig ears are considered a great delicacy when grilled and eaten in sandwiches. That's 'meat', not mushroom. Snoots and tails are also eaten off the grill but 'snoots' have to be cut to lay flat and tails have to be handled carefully to keep from rolling through the wires into the fire.
    Other big deal here is the St. Paul sandwich, an egg foo yung patty with beef gravy served on white bread with mayo. It ain't great but it is local!

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