Robin texted me Monday: “Do you want to go to the mycology lecture?” Now that word, mycology, has not been in my vocabulary very long. Until recently, I would have guessed mycology to be a form of self-help therapy practiced by groups gathering weekly in church basements.
But thanks to my friend Ken Gilberg, the state’s foremost authority on mushrooms and my daughter, the fungi tracker, I know better. Even so, I paused before replying to her text. While she’s an enthusiastic starker of wild mushrooms, I’m content to chase them around the skillet or to work them into a risotto.
“Will there be food?” I asked. “No,” she replied, “but we could grab a bite before hand.” She knew that dining out and the chance to blog about it was all the incentive I needed. I was in.
“First We Eat and Then We Do Everything Else”~MFK Fisher
Later that evening, we headed toward the Botanical Gardens for the 7 o’clock gathering. I checked Yelp for a few restaurants in the area. It being Monday, most were closed. Happily, Olio was open. No problem with that choice.
When we told our server we needed a quick in and out, because of an event at the Gardens, he replied, “You must be going to the mushroom lecture with Eugenia Bone, the writer.” Well, I was impressed! Obviously our speaker was of some note if local restaurants were aware of her presence. From a Google search I learned that her work has been published in the New York Times, Gourmet, Food and Wine and Saveur and her book on canning nominated for a James Beard award. I was excited!
We fortified ourselves for the evening with several Olio specialties: baba ganoush, roasted cauliflower, lamb-stuffed pita and gem salad.
The Olio Menu
On to the Botanical Gardens
The mycologists were out in force, filling the lecture room at the Gardens with enthusiastic fungi fans. Ms. Bone did not disappoint. Despite the dimmed lights for the slide presentation and having had a full meal, I nodded not at all during the 90-minute presentation. I clung to every world of this warm and fascinating woman, whose enthusiasm is contagious—even though at times I felt like I was in a graduate class and should have been in Wild Mushrooms 101.
Fun Fungi Facts
I was amazed to hear that there are million of fungi species in the world, but we commonly eat about three dozen of the mushroom varieties. I learned how to make porcini butter by first pulverizing the mushrooms and adding the powder to softened butter along with a little salt.
It was fascinating to hear about “fire mushrooms,” that spring up abundantly following a forest fire. And did you know that white truffle can’t be cultivated, which is one reason they’re so expensive. She explained that if your store-bought mushrooms never become brown with age, it’s because they’ve been genetically modified to remain pristine in color.
Eugenia Bone’s new book Microbia: a journey into the unseen world around you, reveals just how microbes shape our world, and is a welcome addition to her many other works.
What a lovely evening it was thanks to Robin, Chef Ben Poremba’s kitchen, lecturer Eugenia Bone, and a host of adventuresome fungi enthusiasts.
Olio: 1634 Tower Grove. Open: Tue-Thu 11a-10p; Fri-Sat 11a-12a; Sun-Mon 11a-10p. Owner: Chef Ben Poremba (Elaia, Nixta, Parigi, Benevolent King, La Pâtisserie Chouquette )