Monday, April 19, 2010


Recently, my lovely wife, Veronica, announced her menu for an upcoming dinner party; the main course would be a butterflied leg of lamb stuffed with WILD MUSHROOMS.As the event will take place in mid May I assumed that the mushrooms would be morels foraged by me. I warned her that my fungal forays sometimes failed to produce much. "Oh, I wasn't planning on your gritty mushrooms; I'll get them at Nicas" (our local "gourmet" market).
"If it's actual wild mushroom you want, you wont find them there" I said. All those so called "wild" ones are cultivated, although occasionally there might be a pile of soggy old chanterelles flown in from Asia or South Africa and priced beyond any reasoned buyer's purse.The shitakes, cremini, porto bellos, oysters, are all frequently mislabeled "wild"--in restaurants as well as stores.
In other words, they are unauthentic.
In France and Italy, in the "off" season you will often find real wild mushrooms that have been dried and these can be quite good if prepared properly.In some ways they are bet er than fresh as the flavors tend to be more concentrated. In the picture above, taken in January at a market in Nice, France, you can see "cepes" (boletes or porcini), "morilles" (morels) and "oronges" (Caesar's mushrooms, similar to the coccoras I found in California last November)
I've never tried "oronges sechees" but I can vouch for dried morels--they are strongly perfumed and keep their form after being re-hydrated and cooked; and of course, dried porcini are wonderful in risotti and pasta--you don't need many to impart a real flavor and aroma of the earth.

And there's something about AUTHENTICITY in music that this wild mushroom issue illuminates.It boggles the mind to come across composers now a days who still slavishly follow the "Indeterminate" Cagean point of view (I don't'call it a style or aesthetic) and compose with conceptual ideas which may translate into some kind of music, although usually not.A case in point recently came to my attention; this music (and I shan't mention the culprit's name) seemed to have all the right identifiers to be deemed part of the 70's avant garde which dealt in static, repetitive, minimalistic and chance procedures, as well as arbitrary mathematical schemes that generated notes and rhythms. He obviously owed a lot to Cage and Feldman if not Reich and Riley.
This was sonic randomness, wherein the composer could stand back and feign indifference to the actual sound world he had unleashed, as if it had nothing to do with him--the Cagean idea of eliminating personality from composition.
This "music" came not from within but from outside, delineating ideas that he had absorbed almost as text book examples of what experimental music of that era was like. It sported "cleverness" but lacked authenticity. Period.
This music struck me as hollow, not from a true source of artistic "realness." But then again, searching for the Real is often a thankless task. Sometimes to find the Authentic you have to forage in the woods.