Updated: Sep 5, 2022
Big apologies for not having written to you in so long! I have been immersed in research for the historical fiction novel that I am working on. Writing this book is slow and challenging, especially when there is so much else I’d like to and need to do to take advantage of living in San Miguel.
I did, however, have a unique and amazing adventure yesterday that I’m excited to tell you about. A friend of mine, Nadine Gay, called last week to tell me that she and her husband, Dave, were going on a day-long trip with a group two and a half hours from San Miguel to learn about and collect wild mushrooms. Every Sunday during rainy season when the mushroomns are plentiful in the mountainous forests of Central Mexico, Arif, a young man who is an expert on mushrooms, arranges and leads these tours. After hearing the details of what would be included in the day, I said Jack and I would love to join them.
As it turned out, we had no one to stay at home with Reggie for the 11 hours we’d be away from home, and truthfully, Jack was just s happy to watch Coco Gauff on TV play in the 4th round of the US Open, followed by a Yankee’s game. “You tell me how it is,” he said, happily sending me on my way to my strange-sounding adventure.
Nine of us, plus Arif a driver and another assistant, piled into a van and headed north of the city. headed to our destination in the mountains where he said the mushrooms were varied and plentifull. After a little over an hour, we stopped in Acambay, a pueblo that looked very different from any we had seen in Mexico. There were no tourists anywhere in town, but the streets were lined with people selling mushrooms freshly picked from the forest to the local residents. We ate a breakfast of Huaraches, a popular Mexican dish consisting of masa dough with mashed pinto beans placed in the center and given an oblong shape, fried, topped with green or red salsa, onions, cilantro, mushrooms and finished with queso fresco.. It’s eaten kind of like you would eat a large slice of pizza. It’s delicious. After breakfast and baño we happened back in the van for another hour and arrived at our destination—a large property owned by a woman who is a healer, who uses mushrooms (also rattlesnake venon and meat) mixed with liquids and spices to give to people who come to her to be cured. Woods with tall pine trees surround her property. She knows the forest and its offerings as well as she knows her own children, and gets excited when a new-comer wants to explore them with her. She and Arif have become friends after 6 years of working together, and she welcomed us to her woodland home..
Arif showed us photographs of mushrooms we might find, talked to us about the different varieties, how to pick them and cover over the hole with dirt so as not to cause harm to the mountain. His helper handed out baskets to all of us and we were on our way with our native healer setting the direction. Her husband took off in another direction and soon we heard him call “ooahoo” and she answered “oooahoo,’ which was how they kept track of each other and where to walk to find the best mushrooms. For two hours we walked at 9,000 feet elevation over uneven terrain and sometimes slippery leaves (It’s rainy season, after all) collecting our treasures. Arif and his aides checked our baskets from time to time, throwing out some, “oohing” and “aahing” over others. In the end, we pooled our finds and walked back to the house where Arif and his crew cooked what we had gathered, an extraordinary assortment of red, blue, yellow, and beige mushrooms of varying shapes and sizes. We had no idea how delicious the 5 different dishes they brought out to us were going to be. I have never had a feast like that in more than the year that we’ve lived in San Miguel. After lunch, we each took a bag of the prize mushrooms that were left and piled back into our van. On the way home, we stopped at 2 more lovely colonial towns on the list of “Pueblos Magicos” for their historical and architectural significance. But I couldn’t wait to get home and show my bag of treasures to Jack. I hope Arif sends recipes before all those gorgeous mushrooms dry out.