Stalking the Wild Arora

Photo by Jean Vengua

Recently we attended the Annual Fungus Fair in Santa Cruz. You may have noticed that photos of wild mushrooms occasionally appear here (most by M.A. Fink, some–like the one above–by yours truly). I have taken to identifying mushrooms on my walks, inspired by my companion, Michael, and with the help of David Arora’s incredibly well-researched and often entertaining guidebooks. Once you do several successful identifications, it’s hard to go for a walk without scanning for mushrooms; they appear in so many sizes, shapes, and colors. Some even glow in the dark.

Anyway, knowing that we had missed Arora’s talk at the Fungus Fair, we stalked about looking for him, or for someone who looked like him, so that we might benefit from his mycological wisdom. Suddenly, in the distance, we thought we spied him. Who else would be sporting such a large, poufy cap, red and spotted like an Amanita Muscaria? He was tall and lanky, as Arora appeared in photographs in his books. There was even a kind of “universal veil” attached, like a clown’s ruffled collar at his neck. Hmmm, I wondered what kind of spore print he would leave.

At last we got a close up look. He was wearing an apron emblazoned with the words “Take a Walk on the Wild Side,” and a pair of hot pink mushroom shades. Could this be the famous David Arora, author of Mushrooms Demystified? I for one thought I had made a definitive identification. I only wished I had the guidebook to compare and confirm.

But no. As is often the case, it’s easy to confuse one mushroom with another — which is why one had better know what one is doing when picking them, in order to avoid a deadly mistake. Fortunately, I wasn’t even considering taking a bite. The guy (and my apologies — I was so stunned by his outfit that I didn’t get his name) was a member of the Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz, and jovially posed for a photo, and spent a few minutes talking to us about the fungus identification process, all the while assuring us that he was NOT David Arora.

So we went away slightly befuddled, but ultimately wiser. And who knows: next time we are in the right environment at the right season, we may yet spot the wild Arora.

Categories: Food, Farms | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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