By now you probably know that I, like you and most other domesticated animals, am sensitive to the weather: clear, sunny days are the ones I like best but the cloudier and cooler, I’d say brisky, ones give us the opportunity to put on our warmer jackets and scarves and hats and crunch leaves under our shoes as we walk down the streets, too.
Springtime is bye-bye to the winter everywhere; in France, summer is … oh! just take it all off! … and winter, well, according to where you are … in the winter, we appreciate being warm and dry at home and there are very nice winter days … if you’ve got warm socks and shoes and gloves and all that … but we’re not there yet. Today is September 21st.
Today is the first day of autumn. Fall. We must all have memories attached to a season. It’s the air, the colors, the sounds, the light of day, of dawn, of dusk. It’s the moderate speed of the season. And among my fondest autumn memories is going mushroom hunting in the Limousin. The Massif Central. Les Monts d’Ambazac. For my American readers, this is the countryside around Limoges. A landscape of briar-covered hills and old stones; stone-lined Roman paths coming from who knows where crossing forests, deep dark green-forests where the ferns grow tall and the oak trees grow high. These are hills and woods you wouldn’t want to explore without a guide.
I had the best guides anyone could ever have: Maurice, my father-in-law, knew where the cèpes would be … if there were any to be found… and IF we could spot them just beneath the golden, brown leaves where they blended with the terrain just OUT of the ground … he knew when the girolles might break through the moist earth … he knew that after the rain a day or two earlier IF the sun were to warm the earth just as the moon was in phase, well, maybe we’d come back with a few … maybe with a basketful. I remember so well wearing high boots so as to be protected against snakes, stepping hard so they’d slither away with the vibrations – and I remember so well, joyously bringing our treasure back to the little stone house, that thick stone house, cool inside no matter what the weather was like outdoors, with a big oak table, a fireplace and a wood-burning stove … where, after we’d meticulously scraped the earth off the stems and cleaned off the caps of OUR mushrooms… with a moistened cloth or tissue, my mother-in-law would then cook up those only-in-the-autumn cèpes with garlic and parsley … and, because it was Sunday, an autumn Sunday, a special autumn Sunday because we were all together … serve them with a leg of lamb …
Lucky Days in France.
They sure made me feel welcome. More than welcome. Loved.
There’s nothing like a little emotion to help you remember an autumn day.