Русские грибы-Russian mushrooms

Can you guess what this is?



It is not a snake head or the ear of a small gnome.  It is, in fact a real mushroom imported from Russia.  By imported I mean my aunt brought it when she came for our wedding last October, in the suitcase.  She picked them herself in the forest and dried them.   This small food is one of my favorites in the world, and one of the things I associate most with Russia.

In Russia, there was not a lot of food, as I’ve referenced in previous posts.   This however, did not stop me from being BLOBULA when I was little.    I persevere through any foodversity.

Anyway, one of the things that people did to mitigate the scarce shelves,was try their best to resist Soviet propaganda men, drawn to look eerily like my grandfather in his youth, by drinking as much vodka as possible.

cccpAnother thing they did was to bulk up their food supply.  Much like Mobama and her chic White House garden, they grew food at their dachas (summer houses.) Only, unlike Mobama, if they didn’t have certain kinds of food, they didn’t eat.  One of the ways to do this was to pick mushrooms in the woods, in the fall when the mushrooms were ready.  It wasn’t seen as a chore, more like a national pastime, much like the World Series and the Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal are in the United States.

I remember faintly going on several of these mushroom outings when I was little.  The result was that we would always have mushroom soup when we got home.   To this day, it’s my favorite soup to both cook and eat (out of the three soups that I both cook and eat, being a picky cook and eater.)

Mushroom soup by itself is good.  But soup made from real, Russian dried mushrooms is FANTASTIC.  This is one of the rare cases I wish the Internet had smell-enabled capabilities.  Because, look at these mushrooms:


Soaking in their own juices for about three hours.  Look at that mushroom juice.  Not great to drink unless you want to kill someone, but great to soak in.  As they soak, out of them comes a woodsy flavor, something that seems old, like a library full of leathery books, but also smelling like moss and the Russian forest, where a great deal of Russian folklore and magic always occurs. In the forest, there is always enchantment.  Little girls go to pick mushrooms and they might get a glimpse of leshii or rusalki, forest mermaids stuck in deep pools, pining for their lost lovers.  Or they might not see anything, but Russian forests are always rife with whispers of old pagan religion.  And the mushrooms grow, cool, undisturbed, until they are picked.

Then, you take them out of the bowl, and cut them up, and the juice is all over your knife, but they still retain their stately flavor, and now your whole kitchen smells like rich, woodsy, raw mushroom.


And then comes the best part.  While the rest of the soup is boiling, you throw them in the frying pan to give them some flavor.


And they start to sizzle and hiss and protest, because they’re meant to be in cool, dark, deep, lovely wooded places, not on your skillet.  And then, their rich smell fills your whole kitchen.  At this point, your husband wanders over from the computer and asks when the soup is going to be ready, and if there’s anything he can do to help, namely by eating the soup.

Then, they’re done frying, and your apartment smells like your mom’s house has always smelled, like Russia and frying mushrooms and boiling potatoes, of gossip she’s told you over the years while she was standing at the stove making this soup and you thought it was all a huge mystery, of how delicious it came out every time.

But suddenly, you are the хозяйка (hozaika-hostess or mistress of the house), and it is you who is producing the delicious soup, and you can hardly believe yourself.