If I were living in one of those hunter/gatherer societies, I think I would have starved to death.

Case in point: I went mushroom hunting last week and I sucked at it. I wanted to be a natural, thinking that suddenly being in nature would make my senses super focused, that I would be the master of scanning the land for mushrooms and tracking all the most edible, delicious mushrooms in the French forest.

I did find lots of mushrooms, but they were all the wrong ones. Like this one for example. I loved this mushroom, it’s so adorable. I would have liked to take it home, shellac it and put it on my bookshelf.

Apparently this is the one that killed Snow White or however the story goes. Even touching one of these is not a good idea.

And then there were these very pretty looking oyster-like mushrooms growing on the tree.

Eat these and you’re dead in two minutes flat.

These puffy ones were really fun too. When you poke them with a stick, they emit a green vapor.

I hope I didn’t hurt them but it was too fun to resist.

Fortunately I went with Didier and Claude, the former a vegetable grocer at marche d’Aligre who comes out here in Crecy every mushroom season looking for cepes and pied de moutons. Didier was our guide and he told us which ones we shouldn’t pick or touch (most of them) and which ones were safe to pick.

In France, because so many people love to go into the forest during the mushroom season to hunt for fungus, afterwards, one can take their bounty to the local pharmacy to verify that they are safe to eat.

Because dying by poison mushrooms sounds more dignified than dying by, say, breaking my neck from falling down my narrow six flights of stairs, I took my chances and cooked my batch in a tofu stirfry as soon as I got home.

The eating part wasn’t as satisfying as the activity itself. In the wild parts of France, I’ve found lots of edible things — berries, nettles, dandelion leaves — it’s like nature’s supermarket. And it’s all for the taking, no coupons necessary. What a great concept!

Since living in Paris, the immediate thing that strikes me about being in the forest  is the smell. When stepping into the forest, I just want to fill my lungs to the max with all that fresh, crisp air before heading back into one of the stinkiest but visually loveliest cities. Paris is one place where you don’t want all your senses — particularly your olfactories — working too well for you.

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