February 1, 2011

Confessions of a Pastaholic III

Chapter 2 - Mushroom high.

My parents both enjoy cooking and would host big dinner parties ever so often when I was little. My father, usually in charge of the roasts, whole birds and legs of something, had one special Pasta appetizer: Ravioli with morels. 

Morel alas Morchella, dryland fish, hickory chicken, merkels, molly moochers, miracles - I like the last one best. They taste like miracles, but apparently this pet name is derived from the time when a mountain family was saved from starvation by eating them.

People must have thought me a slightly odd and very spoilt child for I loved them: The funny texture, the hour long procedure (or at least that’s what it felt like) to clean them, the smell and then … the taste, oh, the taste. The taste, which became one of my favorite tastes of all times.

Whenever the ravioli were on the menu I was there, standing next to my Dad at the kitchen counter, watching, helping, and then speed eating the raviolis that weren’t pretty enough to end on the guests’ plate. I think my Dad would actually misshape a few of them on purpose, just to make me happy.

Over the years he nurtured my expensive taste not only by feeding me scraps. With 17 I found my first jar of dried morels under the Christmas tree. When I moved out from home and celebrated my first birthday away, I was probably the only 20 year old to ever receive a birthday present of mushrooms that didn’t get you high.

Last Christmas, my friend from back home who visited me, had to take a parcel from my Dad. Said friend had to leave the shower gel and perfume at security, but luckily the morels and the five pages of recipes from all of my Dad’s favorite chefs made it intact. Christmas dinner was saved. Well, that was after an additional 30 minute drive (in my frenzy I had forgotten the star ingredient at home) and a climb over the gate of my uncle’s house (in my excitement we had gotten locked out).

My little love affair came officially out into the open last summer when my father turned 75 and had organized a four course meal. Each course based on one of his children’s favorite dishes. I was the starter. Guess what my dish was.

P.S.: I am not stingy with my morels. Whenever I have a little packet after a birthday or Christmas, I choose some favorite people to share them with. But I also always point out: Do not force yourself. If you don’t like them, leave them. I am sure that someone (me) will eat them. With pleasure.

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